Climate change. The words are in the news all the time, like a background hum, or a mosquito whine you can’t avoid. When I visit the pond, evidence is everywhere, whether in an arctic blast or the 40 degree weather that follows a couple hours later. I see the trees downed by severe windstorms, the land flooded with late fall and early winter rains that usually aren’t. Despite the losses, I am still overwhelmed by the beauty nature shows me. With extreme temperature changes this winter, I have seen the pond freeze/thaw/freeze/thaw/freeze. So many forms of frozen ripple, crack, crumple. I think about how to portray the frozen lace in paint, how to sneak up on the glorious effects, how to make the process look effortless. Time and experimentation. Details below.
Technical painting notes: I started the painting with a roll-up of dark, thin oil paint establishing major values, then worked to define the clumps of grasses with a silicone scraper. When the underlayer was dry, I started to define the ripples and alternate this brushwork with glazes. A narrow roller was used build the thicket of marks that would become underwater vegetation. I used a wider rubber roller to glaze over and smudge the ripples, and to start laying in the larger bands of blue open water. Alternating brush and roller, I put details down then semi-buried them under rolled nearly transparent glazes to suggest the luminous ice forming around the grass clumps. Including a touch of olive green brought the colors into balance and serves as a reminder that what is frozen now will be green again.
What compels me to keep visiting Hamlen Woods? I think it is the nearly hypnotic trance I fall into as I walk the perimeters of the creeks and ponds, all linked and providing rich habitats. I become hyper aware of sounds, color, and especially the way time seems to slow down as I watch leaves float and spin on the currents, or the way pine needles hover on the surface, collect, and then disappear. Maybe it’s the way silently observing the pond takes me completely out of myself, as if I weren’t there. Or maybe it’s getting to know the place so well that every tree limb, lily, and frog feels like an old friend. I just love it. Details from Slow Drift below. Enjoy.
While terrible for the trees, an early snowfall is gorgeous to see and enjoy. The stark whites and blues intermixed with the last foliage broadens the palette. It’s like the best of winter and summer combined. Of course it also means many limbs will come crashing down, to be turned into strong diagonals in the next paintings. All part of why I love working with landscape. Enjoy!
:This study of an alternate path through the woods on a snowy day is full of the sunshine that is so dear in January. There are so many trails in these woods. I can’t help but think of Robert Frost’s poem The RoadNot Taken:
“………And I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Over the years, I’ve walked many of the trails, and I am still finding more. Best is when I get off the trail, keeping the position of the sun in mind, and start exploring. I call it tromping the swamps. In winter, the abstract patterns of ice and frost collecting around clumps of grasses is so visually exciting. It was the inspiration of my large painting The Winter Pond. I look forward to working with the subject again when the temperature drops. In the meantime, I’ll try a few new trails…….Enjoy.
Some paintings are years in development. The initial idea seems like a good one, but the artist’s skills aren’t yet up to the challenge. The Winter Pond is one of those paintings. Every winter I worked on it, then got stuck. But today, I realized where it had to go, and how I might get there. I think the solution was partly in taking bigger risks, losing the brush, and embracing every rubber roller in my arsenal. The colors are based on my pond/swamp, and the gestures, but I took liberties with placement and angle of perception. Letting the abstract qualities dominate brought the painting closer to the feeling of the place and that cold time of year when there is some meltwater but still a lot of ice and snow. I also gained some insights into how I might tackle some larger paintings or diptychs……..the fun begins! Details below. Enjoy!
Winter is a very abstract time – the shapes and colors of life are lost under ice and snow. I think it is this abstraction that draws me toward painting winter. I love abstract expressionism, but it isn’t innately my personality. When I choose to paint winter, I can trick my brain into thinking more abstractly. Such a treat to be able to experience that change in my way of being and seeing. I start many paintings intending them to be quite abstract, but they usually turn into some kind of view, and definitely have a sense of place. So, I keep trying.
Into the woods is clearly a place, a time, a subject. But this demure setting on a winter day in dimmed light keeps some sense of its abstract underpinnings. Often, it’s that tenuous line between abstraction and reality that is most intriguing. Enjoy.