Afternoon at the Quarry

TM9602 Afternoon at the Quarry 7×7 oil on paper

Cape Ann, north of Boston Massachusetts is full of old quarries – some tiny and some huge. The local granite was used to build much of early Boston and other colonial cities and towns in New England. Today, the woods are encroaching, but hiking the inland trails yields all sorts of quarry surprises and lovely views with New England’s basic assets of stone, water, and trees. This fairly shallow quarry is also a good place to listen to operatic bull frogs. Enjoy.

Two Quarry Studies

TM9590 Summer Reaches the Old Quarry #2 7×7 oil on paper
TM9583 Summer Reaches the Old Quarry #1 7×7 oil on paper

These two studies were done on smooth, primed paper, which informed the quick, blocked in treatment using a palette knife. The strong sun gave me an opportunity to play with simplified shadows. I felt like Edward Hopper was sitting next to me, of course I was in his neighborhood!

At the Old Quarry

TM9586 At the Old Quarry 7×7 oil on handmade paper

There are many approaches to painting – especially on the continuum of realistic to abstract. I love them all when well-executed, but I think the most interesting way of painting looks for the intersection between realism and abstraction. Where the subject is evident and the handling of paint and composition are all in service to bringing out the Zen-like essential nature of both. In a great painting, one can savor the meaning and the way the subject is presented. One also glimpses how the painting seems to be anchored by history and at the same time fresh as tomorrow. The painting transparently lets us feel the artist’s process and thinking with each stroke. Of course producing such work takes time, practice, and, I think, wisdom gained throughout one’s life. It’s one reason why I keep doing these small paintings – to try new ideas and see if they will work in the context of what I want to say.

At the Old Quarry is a case in point. It is oil on prepared handmade paper, with the texture of the paper determining how it could be painted – what was possible. The uneven surface was perfect for a broader treatment using knife, pencil, and a (silicone) pointed scraper. I knew I wanted to base it on one of the quarries I visit regularly, but the composition also nods toward Mark Rothko’s famous stacked rectangles and squares. The energetic textural “strokes” acknowledge other abstract painters – including Joan Mitchell and Wolf Kahn. Working on this 7×7″ painting gave me insights into how I can approach a large 36×80″ panel waiting for my attention.

Poem from the Cove

TM9567 Poem from the Cove 7×7 oil on paper

An intimate beach inside a rugged frame, that was my first thought when I decided to paint this view. I particularly liked the steep perspective looking down, and the question it raised: how to get there without a boat? Well of course there are two answers. You don’t, or you get out your hiking shoes. The latter rewarded me with great subjects for painting and a lovely day. I think my favorite is still the view from above. Enjoy.

Technical painting notes: I chose to to keep my approach to painting the scene similar to the my physical approach to the land. Think carefully about the next step, then do it without looking back. After that, whatever happens, happens. I used mostly the palette knife and Winsor Newton Liquin for the medium. The rough texture of the knife work echoes the rough, ledge. Combining two views – looking down and across – gives a sense of the space and allows me to share with the viewer the vertigo of deciding whether or not to climb down.