This summer ‘s record-setting heat resulted in a hothouse studio. Under these conditions, the paint gets sticky and trying to brush it across a surface becomes impossible. A palette knife, in part because it can spread the paint faster, works better. So does a roller. Poem from the Garden #1 is my first larger painting executed almost entirely with palette knife and roller. With the new combination of tools, I realized the movement of the paint itself was more interesting, and the richer surface added a new depth. A breakthrough? I think so, even a whole new way of thinking about what I love best – maybe a new series titled Poems from the Garden? I almost feel like a kid again with a new toy. Details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I used some Winsor Newton Liquin to thin the paint so that it would be somewhat runny on the knife and would spread quickly. I wanted a clear, clean, lush feeling to the stroke. When I started rolling over parts of the knife work, the roller did its magic of blending some areas and lifting and repeating marks – something so distinctive to roller work and so much fun. The tools encourage a looser, more impulsive way of thinking. I love it.
Who doesn’t enjoy watching summer with its progression of blooms, all so lovely? If I had a yard, I would find a place for Wisteria, preferably gracing a porch. They are so showy and elegant. This portrait is happily based on a friend’s fabulous garden. Thank you, Chris, for sharing it with me; now I would like to share it again! Details below.
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! 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….detail 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. Enjoy.
TM9422 Looking Up, Looking Down 36×60 oil on panel
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.
TM9422 Looking Up, Looking Down – detail from lower right showing layered use of brush and roller strokes
TM9422 Looking Up, Looking Down – detail from upper right
TM9422 Looking Up, Looking Down – detail from upper center
TM9422 Looking Up, Looking Down – detail from upper left with clouds and blossoms
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.
TM9292 Remembered Peony -detail
TM9292 Remembered Peony – detail from left side with bud and blossoms