Open Secrets

TM9523 Open Secrets 42×48 oil on panel

A few record-setting warm days last week prompted me to bring out a painting that has been in the works for a while. Based on my delight and sense of wonder whenever I am in the presence of trees, this painting delves into the canopy (again) and ponders what we hear as well as see – the music of trees rustling is present, as is the sense of a community of leaves, each leaf bearing its own song, its own secrets. I imagine all these songs being carried off with the wind. So public. Such open secrets. There is so much we need to learn about trees, their inner life, there deep connection  to our own existence. The solace and joy they offer us. Details below. Enjoy

TM9523 Open Secrets – detail from center right

TM9523 Open Secrets – detail from top edge

TM9523 Open Secrets – detail from upper left and center

TM9523 Open Secrets – detail from lower left



Technical painting notes: I used a soft rubber roller to layer dark oil paint onto the surface of the panel, blocking in the pattern of darks and lights and trying to achieve some interesting textures and roller strokes. When dry, I worked up the pattern of leaves, branches, stems, and sky with soft brushes, exaggerating value contrasts with the intent of covering this stage with multiple rolls of fairly transparent oil color glazes.  Days of rolling and rerolling wet glazes produced the soft focus I was hoping for, and helped to suggest both movement and the mysterious life of the leaves. Highlighting a few areas with additional brushwork completed the painting.

First Signs

TM9522 First Signs 36×92 diptych oil on panels

Late winter can seem so devoid of color, but then one warm day brings a melt, and suddenly that crisp blue sky and reflecting water reveal the poetry of the season. The dried winter grasses along the pond edge seem to dance in the breeze, and a hint of green hovers in the water – where from? I hardly know, but it feels like magic. First Signs is about early spring and its energy. I invite you to join me on this extended walk along the pond path. Enjoy. Details below.

TM9522 First Signs – detail from upper right

TM9522 First Signs – detail from top with reflections and dried grasses

TM9522 First Signs – detail from center left

TM9522 First Signs – detail from right panel with reflections and swaying grasses

TM9522 First Signs – detail from lower edge with meltwater and sky

TM9522 First Signs – detail from left side with winter’s grasses overhanging the pond

Ode to the Winter Ice Pond

TM9509 Winter Ice Pond 36×54 oil on panel

The line between abstraction and realism is almost non-existent. Impressions, nuances, an impulsive color or gesture – these elements can determine the context in which we re-cognize a place or an emotional state. Ode to the Winter Ice Pond is based on my (sometimes) daily observations of a local ice pond freezing in winter. It records the changes, from open water to the first scrim of thin ice to frozen ripples. Some of the gestures are from grasses caught above and below the water, or the reddish branches that can seem so vibrant when stripped of their leaves, or outlined with snow. Is it realism? abstraction? impressionism? I don’t like categories. I just love to look, and then paint. Anything else I leave for you to figure out.

Details from the finished painting below.

TM9509 Winter Ice Pond – detail from upper left

TM9509 Winter Ice Pond – detail from lower center edge

TM9509 WInter Ice Pond – detail from right side


Technical painting notes: While the colors of winter at the ice pond are somewhat limited, I used warm and cool versions of the blues, greens, grays and reds to keep the painting’s palette interesting

Joy in the Morning

TM9502 Joy in the Morning 30×60 oil on panel

Joy in the Morning; the title explains itself. I adore the lush environments found along creeks and rivers where vegetation and water meet, where reality and its counterpart overlap, The subject lends itself to to a more abstract, looser approach, and seems to demand a larger format as well – room to play with tangent, flickering light amidst the bright blues of a reflected sky. I thought of calling the painting “Riverside,” but with this much color, it’s more about my emotional response to the place, the light, and my enthusiasm greeting a new day. I find I keep asking myself is this painting abstract? Maybe, but not entirely. Is it abstract impressionism?  I think that term describes the playfulness of painting with the roller, while the word impressionism reminds one that this is still based on observation. Whatever the proper descriptive phrase, it seems to be the direction toward which I am heading. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9502 Joy in the Morning – detail from upper right showing use of roller, spatter, and brushwork

TM9502 Joy in the Morning – detail from left side

TM9502 Joy in the Morning – detail from center with vegetation overhanging the water

TM9502 Joy in the Morning – detail from lower edge of painting with branches, leaves, and watery ripples

TM9502 Joy in the Morning – detail from right of center

Technical painting notes: There are a considerable number of semi-transparent layers of paint and glaze building this image. I used Winsor Newton Liguin mixed into the oil paint to create luminosity and to speed drying. I also worked from dark to light, with the underlayers of dark green and a brownish black showing through occasionally.


In Silence

TM8589 In Silence 30×60 oil on panel

In Silence explores the poetic qualities of color contrasted with the absence of light. It  looks at the drama of autumn, that time when we turn from bright days full of color to the deep, darkening mysteries of winter and night. The right and left sides of the painting, with reflected trees and sky, mirror the soft air and vibrancy of fall while framing the dark center. Is this, too, a reflection from deep woods? Yes, but also a metaphorical entrance into the darkness of winter. The mood is quiet; the few floating leaves suggest time’s passage and form a bridge across the center. Details below. Enjoy!

TM8589 In SIlence – detail from left side

TM8589 In Silence – detail from left of center with tree reflections

TM8589 In Silence – detail from center top

TM8589 In Silence – detail from right of center

Technical painting notes: Some paintings take a long time to finish, and this is one. I worked it up to a degree of finish, and hung it in the studio so I could ponder how to finish to it. I liked what I had, the balance of light, color, and darkness, but the center seemed a bit flat. It took a few years to figure out that small touches of golden light in the dark woods (center) made the whole painting sing. Certain things can’t be hurried.

Looking at “A Deeper Look” again

TM8494 A Deeper Look 30×54 oil on panel

Yes, I thought this painting was finished when I posted it earlier in the week, but then nature intervened. The morning after I posted it, I was driving to the studio and the sky was spectacularly blue with glorious white cumulous clouds (after a considerable number of gray days). I looked at the painting and thought “why not?” The blue skies and clouds completely change the mood of the painting. I loved the darker, grayer version – it had a melancholy elegance  – but for me right now, I want the hope that blue skies can bring. I think we all need it. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail from upper right

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail from lower left

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail from left of center with woodland and cumulous reflections in shallow water

The painting retains its basic composition based on woodland reflections in shallow water, but with the change in sky color there is a gentleness. The next to final version, without the blue sky, is below.

TM8494 A Deeper Look 30×54 oil on panel



A Deeper Look

TM8494 A Deeper Look 30×54 oil on panel

Some paintings provide a passage into insight. The idea of allowing more of the abstract underpainting to show through in the finished painting was one of my goals in A Deeper Look. I began the painting in my usual way, but if something interesting started to happen, I let it. As the painting progressed, I realized that I was sensing both the water and the woods – almost independently. The painting was starting to feel more like my experience of the place. It was a thrilling moment. Finishing the painting meant restraining myself from painting too much – only just enough to provide a clue or hint at what I saw. This way of working is more interesting, and allows the mysterious quality of the woods and pond to dominate. A celebration moment. By letting go, the reflection I was painting became more otherworldly. Like seeing through Alice’s looking glass, an alternative reality emerged  – one more interesting than I could have imagined. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail from left of center with reflections and duckweed in shallow water

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail from lower right with woodland reflections

Anticipating Spring Again

TM9098 Anticipating Spring Again 42×48 oil on panel (third version)

I think it was prophetic, naming this painting Anticipating Spring Again. When I started it in 2018, the title referred to a series of annual woodcuts I used to do, titled Anticipating Spring. It was my way of saluting the end of winter and looking forward to the gentle season of spring each year. Little did I know that this painting would itself become a series. I no longer have a picture of the first version. It was reworked a year later to become the second version. A year can make a huge difference in how one sees a painting, and I realized I could push the painting further. Recently, the second version came back from a gallery, and as I considered it anew, I realized that once again I would have to go back into the painting. I’ve learned so much since last year. Experience told me that I could increase the depth and extend both the the nuances and boldness of the color. Details from the newest version are below (along with the second version).

TM9098 Anticipating Spring Again – detail from lower right with sky through overhanging branches

TM9098 Anticipating Spring Again – detail from upper right with sunlight on young leaves

TM9098 Anticipating Spring Again – detail from left side showing use of soft and hard edges

TM9098 Anticipating Spring Again – detail from low and to the right of center

And the second version of this painting, sitting under the present version…

TM9098 Anticipating Spring Again (second version)