First snow is magic. In the city, noise is finally hushed. In the countryside, the gentle shshshsh of falling snow crystals is magnified. John Cage, if he were still alive, would understand. Brian Eno, I’m sure, still does. The question is how to depict the excitement of near silence. Listening to Snow is about that silence. Based on my favorite woodland walk to small pond, the painting has lively rhythms expressed through the tracery of snow-covered branches and young trees. The quiet is expressed through various gray tones and the quieting effect of snow (white and gray spatter) on the overall dynamic. While Eno and Cage encourage me to listen intently, the painting is also influenced by two other artists who wrestled with all-over pattern painting and chance – Sam Gilliam and Jackson Pollock. Their intuitive approach reminds me that nature is not a formula, and the more I can let chance and accident hold sway, the more the painting will, in itself, express the fundamental truth of what I see and hear. Details below. Enjoy.
I look forward to the first freeze each year – that morning when sparkles set in and suddenly a new season is here. There are still enough leaves floating on the pond to create a tapestry of colors mixed into the frosty whites and grays. Summer’s fluidity is suddenly still, almost solemn, and feels so realistically abstract! Enjoy. Detail below.
More experimenting with knife and roller – and moments of glee when something interesting happens. Working on this painting it sometimes felt like Uncle Claude was perched on my shoulder. Monet’s waterlily paintings, especially the late ones with their ropy paint, are related to “Pondly Thoughts”. I think Monet would have loved working with the roller, discovering more ways to layer. We certainly share an affinity with water and its mutability. Monet had his garden and pond, I have my swamp. Two artists happy as larks. Details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I started with a rolled dark layer, working toward the light in successive brushed and rolled layers. Glazes modelled the color. I used brushwork to define some of the negative, light areas, then rolled them to soften the edges and spread the color. Knife work focused the leaves, which were overpainted and rolled to create mysterious shapes under the over-rolled surface. A little spatter, some scraping, more glazing, etc. Eventually it seemed to reach a balance that spoke to describing the pond and its environment while keeping to my new motto of interesting paint!
In the woods – that could have been a motto for my childhood, whether I was exploring in the woods or wishing I could go. The infinite mysteries, the rich smells, the universe found under a rock or in a pond, the snapping turtles and horned pout, the wet feet – all of it! It’s still my go to place for solace, quiet, inspiration, and a place to think or just be. Enjoy.
P.S. Funny how a physical change (like cataract removal, with its attendant delight in seeing the details!!!!) can affect one’s approach to painting. I don’t know what the next painting will look like, but I certainly look forward to finding out.
Paintings are my way of experiencing the world around me. This close view of the surface of my favorite pond is an example. I love the pollen that collects on the surface in May – the way it both obscures the reflections and reinforces the flat plane of the water’s surface. It is also the season when duckweed makes its appearance, forming an abstract pattern on the surface that reminds me of a tapestry. Interpreting all that with paint is a challenge, but more than that it’s about the joy of finding ways to move paint provocatively around on the panel. I never know how the subject will eventually emerge, but that mystery is part of the process, and keeps me wanting to paint. details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: When I first blocked in the basic composition for this painting, I had an idea, based on photographs from walks around the pond. Below is the painting as it looked the first day.
After a few days, the subject was heading in a different direction, and I liked the broadly abstract strokes and energy. I didn’t think it quite worked, however, and I couldn’t figure out a way to resolve it.
I decided to do something radical, taking indigo paint and a roller to cover parts of the image, then spattered oil and solvent and rolled it again, scraping away some paint and adding spatter. It certainly “disturbed” the original idea and gave me a new way to think about the subject! I compared the totally abstract gestures on the panel to my hundreds of photos and decided to go with a quieter impression of the pond based on views and memories of May, with a larger sense of space and depth. The rest of the week was spent nudging the radical abstraction toward that end.
It’s fascinating to see how quickly life is coming back to the pond now that we’ve finally had some rain. It’s as if a bit of spring is colliding with early autumn. I see new leaves emerging and flowers that were missing are trying to bloom. I guess that was on my mind when I was painting Woodland Pond. It feels like deepest, greenest summer, but with early fall leaves floating on the pond’s surface. I tried to be truthful, but it feels strange. More details below.
Late September and the lilies won’t be around much longer. I’ve been enjoying the last ones as I walk around the pond, not to mention the crisp, sparkling light that seems to make all things glow. Joy is in the small things. Detail below.
I have been thinking about the word sanctuary. Recent events in the news illustrate again the desperate need to provide sanctuary for all. Earlier this week I was walking the perimeter of my favorite pond, welcoming the recent rain and relieved to see the frogs and fishies are able to swim again, a reprieve from our summer-long drought – a sanctuary, however brief, from the effects of climate change. I too need this sanctuary in the woods, away from the vehemence and anger of politics.
So, what is sanctuary? A place to rest and repair heart and soul, to recover, to resume the work and joys of life with a degree of hope. Providing sanctuary is about empathy and taking responsibility for more than one’s own life.