April is a month of rapid change at the pond. At the start of the month, the water is crystal clear and the reflections sharp and cold. By later in the month, duckweed flecks are beginning to appear, the shallow grasses are nudging up, and the water is full of ripples suggesting tadpoles and peepers below the surface. I want all of it in my paintings. The tempo of ripple and the hum of life is so musical and subtle. To keep that mood while I’m working in the studio, I usually play music that echoes the feel and tempo of what I want to create, setting the pace of the brushstroke. For this painting, I chose John Cage (especially his work on the toy piano) and a cd of Philip Glass, played by Bruce Brubaker. The tonality and rhythm evoked water, and Cage’s toy piano had a spirit of innocence and joy about it that said spring, at least to this artist. Details below. Enjoy.
I will be opening my studio for the
Annual Fenway Open Studios
April 30 & May 1
11AM to 5PM (I will be open noon to 5 both days, studio 103)
30 Ipswich Street, Boston, Massachusetts
Masks strongly recommended for visiting the individual artists’ studios. There will also be an outdoor exhibition, music, and ice-cream, with our block of Ipswich Street closed for the celebration.
The grand opening of our non-profit the Fenway Gallery is Sunday, May 1, with reception at noon.
Some paintings move slowly toward the finish line; this one took eight years. It’s based on photographs I took walking in swampy woods, with three columns of dark tree reflection and intermittent light. As I worked on it over the years, I saw that what attracted me to the composition was the underlying composition, almost a Mark Rothko-like play of squares and rectangles. What began as realism morphed into abstraction as I strengthened the light and brought the abstraction to the fore. Closer, the realism of trees, limbs, and leaves remain. It’s the distribution of the late afternoon light, floating leaves, and debris that plays with the more abstract impulse and sense of space. It may be one of my favorite paintings. Details below. Enjoy.
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.
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
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; 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 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!
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.
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…