It’s fascinating to see how quickly life is coming back to the pond now that we’ve finally had some rain. It’s as if a bit of spring is colliding with early autumn. I see new leaves emerging and flowers that were missing are trying to bloom. I guess that was on my mind when I was painting Woodland Pond. It feels like deepest, greenest summer, but with early fall leaves floating on the pond’s surface. I tried to be truthful, but it feels strange. More details below.
My favorite pond in Wayland is coming back to life after a few rainy days. Yesterday I saw the great blue heron stalking his preferred spot for breakfast, and the frogs are back. Green, a color that had all but disappeared this summer, is gaining its spring freshness again. The reappearance of life at the pond brought smiles to the faces of fellow hikers whom I met. The mood was hopeful, something I hope comes through in this new painting.
I have been thinking about the word sanctuary. Recent events in the news illustrate again the desperate need to provide sanctuary for all. Earlier this week I was walking the perimeter of my favorite pond, welcoming the recent rain and relieved to see the frogs and fishies are able to swim again, a reprieve from our summer-long drought – a sanctuary, however brief, from the effects of climate change. I too need this sanctuary in the woods, away from the vehemence and anger of politics.
So, what is sanctuary? A place to rest and repair heart and soul, to recover, to resume the work and joys of life with a degree of hope. Providing sanctuary is about empathy and taking responsibility for more than one’s own life.
The Exhibit of my pondscapes is up at Warm Springs Gallery in Warm Springs, Virginia. Preview below. Enjoy!
It is always a variation on a theme, this return to spring at my pond in the woods. I think I know the place, but winter changes it. The same happens with the panel and the idea. I think I know the subject and how to start the painting, but then the painting takes off in a different direction as I follow an impulse or take advantage of an accident. In the end it is still about the place, but more. Details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting note: The beginnings of a new beaver lodge in the upper left were a challenge. I painted the intertwined branches compulsively, and though it was exactly what I saw, it didn’t work with the rest of the painting. Eventually, I took a roller full of gray paint and interrupted the branches, then rolled in some green too. Now it felt like it belonged without calling too much attention to itself. Apology: I regret that I couldn’t get a jpg that showed the range of the greens in the painting, but that is the digital dilemma.
Sanding and priming the first of two shipments of panels. The first step is inspecting the panels and choosing the best side for the front. I check the joints and corners for damage, or gaps where wood meets wood, and use wood filler to repair.
The next step is wiping the panels with soft cloths to remove shop dust, then the edges of the panel are lightly sanded with 150 grit sandpaper to remove splintery rough spots. Wipe down again.
I use a chip brush to shellac the back side of the panel, preserving the lovely wood grain while sealing the surface.
The front side then receives five thin coats of alkyd primer, applied with a foam brush to minimize brush strokes. When the front is thoroughly dry, I use the 150 grit sandpaper and a block to smooth the front surface to a velvet finish. Wipe down with soft cloths again, ready to start a painting.
There’s a poetry that I hope to achieve in all my paintings – a sense of mystery and the tension between what can be described and what can only be felt. Drifting Past November was slow to evolve. It’s based on late fall by the creek, with reflections from over-hanging branches and a few leaves floating by. I brought the painting to near completion but didn’t know how to finish it. The “place” was described, but the delicate feeling where loss and beauty intersect was missing. Living with it on the wall of the studio for a couple years gave my thinking time to evolve. No longer fearing a “mistake” I added layers of red gesture drawing based on the overhanging leaves and heightened the lights. The combination of more layered glazes and brushed and rolled detail work increased the complexity and added to the sense of depth, as well as making the color more exciting. I emphasized the contrast of hard and soft edges as a metaphor for what is present and what is disappearing. Details below, along with the version that hung on the wall for two years.
There’s a gentleness to late spring and early summer, and a quiet harmony of color, especially in the greens. The Green Voice of Summer explores some of the close harmonies of the season with a somewhat abstract view of my favorite pond and its reflections. Unlike many of my autumn pondscapes, this painting whispers its mood and message. You have to stop to hear it, as did I last July when the idea began to form in my imagination. Details below. Enjoy.