The sensuality of peonies in full bloom is extraordinary,. Painting that sensuality, and trying to convey an invitation to draw closer and take a deep breath – well, that is the challenge. Portraying every detail might seem like the right approach. But, seeing too much might actually inhibit the sense of mystery and the feeling of scent in the air around the flowers. In Poem from the Garden I chose to work broadly and use restraint painting the details. The loosely rolled underpainting, full of unexpected shapes and textures, was almost interesting enough without additional work. A few simple glazes and limited opaque highlights extended the range of tones and provided just enough information to establish that this is, indeed, a poem from the garden. Details below. Enjoy.
Nature loves to fill a void, and the garden is no exception. Actually, I prefer a little chaos. Too much order is boring. So here’s too enthusiasm among the blossoms! details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: This painting began with a roll-up of thinned burnt sienna paint manipulated with rags and scrapers to block in the major shapes. After the first layer was dry, I used alkyd glazes to introduce color (thinned terra rosa and some olive greens). While the glaze was wet, I started defining flowers and leaves using brushes and a heavier bodied paint. I used a roller charged with transparent paint to blend and break up the patterns, introducing some chaos. Further linear definition with cool, bluish gray greens and yellows offered contrast to the broad, rolled shapes and blends. I emphasized the yellow shades as a way to bring sunshine and warmth into the painting.
The garden has been a theme in art for a thousand years. With such a long history, and works from so many cultures across time, the question is what more can I add? The short answer is I don’t know! But the only way to find the answer is to start painting/playing. The pleasure of the pursuit might be enough, but maybe someone else will find pleasure in these paintings too, and that would be even better. More than that, only time will tell….details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I started by rolling a thinned, payne’s grey oil paint on the panel with a soft roller, using the roller marks to block out the lights and darks. Selective wiping clarified some shapes. I let this layer dry, then used alkyd glazes to bring in color masses. From this point, it was a game between painting the “correct” details and taking advantage of the scattered and arbitrary roller strokes and accidents to build an interesting image.
What to do with the scraps of wood panels leftover from the large paintings? Fool around with some fun garden paintings. These smaller paintings are all about a change of palette and lots of little experiments, like taking a break after the complicated work. They also tap into the part of me that loves working in a garden. Details below. Enjoy.
Painting is an adventure. I started this painting almost two years ago – a somewhat abstract view through trees in early winter. I worked on it off and on all year, tinkering with the mood, the amount of snow. and, finally, the intensity of the wind. Eventually, the painting became a blizzard with white out conditions. I wasn’t sure a white whirling void was really my intent, so I put it away for a few weeks. When I returned to it, I knew the winter had to go. I couldn’t stand looking at the blizzard – so cold. I picked up a roller and started attacking the panel with yellows and grays, greens and blues. It certainly changed the mood! At some point, it struck me that I was painting a brilliant, partly cloudy sky, and at the same time the yellow shapes began to resemble blossoms. Oh dear, I thought. Where did that come from? I took out my collection of photos from the Victory Gardens and shots of my friend Christine’s garden and started to purposely paint the gestures of flowers and leaves. The painting is certainly about transitions and spring, and the joys of looking up and down. I think it also is about learning to trust intuition, letting go, and having loads of fun skiing along the edges of the roller shapes and dancing with the lines. Details below. Enjoy.
Gardens are amazing. When I was young, the farmer next door’s wife, Mrs. Kroll, had a sumptuous, showy, flower garden running along a huge stone wall that ran nearly the length of their side yard. I was fascinated by the exotic, and HUGE, flowers. Gladioli, mammoth dahlias, sky high sunflowers, platter-like zinnias. Maybe it was all the free manure and compost. Maybe it was her diligent, daily tending. Each day she cut and tossed away the fading blossoms. We raided her floral compost pile, and what joy we had finding nearly perfect specimens to bring home. Much more exciting than the marigolds and baby’s breath, phlox and snapdragons our grandmother planted. Midsummer Garden is my ode to Mrs. Kroll’s gardening achievements – radiant sunshine and a feeling of lush summer every day. Thank you Mrs. Kroll. Details below.
Technical painting notes: The initial base layer of browns and dark green oil paint was applied with a soft rubber roller. I used a scraper and paper towels to draw and blot in the forms and lights. When the base layer was dry, I used brushes and oil paint to glaze and define the subject further, then used my rollers to soften and blur edges. I rolled more layers of semi-transparent oil paint to modulate the color and keep the effects soft, as if from memory. I was so small when I first saw Mrs. Kroll’s garden, and the flowers seemed to reach up forever, as if they could disappear into Heaven. Her yellows were the sun. At first, I had a bright blue sky behind the flowers, but it seemed too bold and heavy. When I rolled grays into the bright blues, taking down the saturation, the more neutral gray tones seemed to make the yellows sing more loudly. Go yellow!
I’ve been revisiting my old monoprint techniques, starting with a dark value and working my way into the light with wiping, lifting, and finally rolls of translucent paint. Pulling an image from darkness can feel like pulling a memory from the darkest recesses of the mind. Chance and the veracity of fiction vs. fact. Do I really remember this? Or am I inventing the memory I would like to recall? In any event, the resulting paintings can seem more otherworldly. Either way, I think I’ll try this again. Details below. Enjoy.
The hydrangea offers so many challenges. Not only are they lovely in bloom, but the range of colors they assume as they fade is nearly endless. Then there’s the off-symmetry of the flower heads, and how to paint the airiness of them. This painting is based on some photographs I took last summer. After working on a couple of hydrangea paintings, I’m beginning to see the potential for more….enjoy. Details below.