Finding the Poetry in Winter

TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter 42×42 oil and pencil on panel

I always start with an idea, but after the first or second day of work, the painting often flies off in a new direction. When I started Finding the Poetry in Winter, I was aiming for something minimal based on walks at my pond this December, something as subtle as some of Brian Eno’s soundscapes and taking advantage of chance (as John Cage so wisely mastered).

As the work developed, I saw more and more potential for merging painting and drawing. Using a darker, thick ebony pencil I could make a dark line and score through the wet paint, leaving ridges to catch subsequent rolls of thin color. Painted and rolled lines offered wonderful contrast. To keep the lines from being too intentional, I rolled transparent neutral gray tones over the wet lines. The roller smudged and “repeated” the lines in a way I couldn’t predict. The more I layered pencil and paint strokes with rolled glazes, the richer the surface became. As the days of work progressed, the surfaces became more varied and the palimpsests more evocative. I especially like the way this new way of working lets my thought process show through.

Details from the finished painting below, followed by views of the painting in progress.

TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter – detail from above and to the left of center
TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter – detail from upper right
TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter – detail from right side
TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter – detail from below center
TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter – detail from left side

Daily progress

TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter – day one
TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter – day two

Despite the bold start, after many glazes, spatter, and rerolls, the image almost disappeared. However, I liked the pencil strokes and ghosts, and the feel of the piece. A little more drama wouldn’t hurt, however. I increased the contrast again, and added more of the roller and pencil drawing.

TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter – day three
TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter – day four

Day five brought much more drawing after rolling semi-transparent glazes over much of the painting to lighten the mood. It was a day of learning what drawing then over-rolling could do.

TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter – day five
TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter – detail from upper left
TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter – detail from upper right
TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter – day six, with more drawing

By day six, I knew a lot more about drawing with the roller and with pencil, interweaving the direct work with over-rolls of nearly transparent grays. Fun, and wintry, but still not enough surface interest. There is so much that I observe at the pond, and this felt too much like one moment, rather than a summation of all that I had observed during this snowless December/January.

TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter – day seven – showing radical restart with loose rolls of dark blackish blue to restate strong gestures and explore the “ghosts” that would show through. The ghosts felt more like the delicate bare branches, and I had more drama. Now to refine it a bit and draw into the surface, making it richer still.
TM9695 Finding the Poetry in Winter 42×42 oil and pencil on panel, Day eight, finished