An Indeterminate Number

TM8684 An Indeterminate Number 36x36 oil on panel

TM8684 An Indeterminate Number 36×36 oil on panel

Numbers fascinate me – but in a visual way. Like the impact of quantity juxtaposed with uniqueness. I don’t intend to count the stones in this painting, but I have caressed each one with a brush countless times. First it was drawing each stone, placing it in position with great care for its context and neighbors. Then it was layers of glazing and scumbling with a badly split brush. Finally more glazes to add nuances of color  – dark/light, warm/cool, rough/smooth. The last touch was “sprinkling” tiny leaves into the cracks, both to add color and diversity – and because they were there. As I worked on the individual stones they became personalities. I made sure to include some lucky stones. The painting is primarily inspired by visits to Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec, Maine. Detail below. Enjoy.

TM8684 An Indeterminate Numver - close-up from left of center showing stone texturesshowing

TM8684 An Indeterminate Numver – close-up from left of center showing stone textures

Note – my large stone paintings usually take years to finish (in between working on other paintings), so hallelujah!

Watching the Fog Lift

TM8207 Watching the Fog Lift 12x12 oil on panel

The steep shoreline drops at low tide on the Bay of Fundy and a wealth of rock formations provide many places for tidal pools to collect. This view, from Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec, Maine  also features the rich greens and seaweed orange/bronze  colors that make a foggy gray day magnificent.

One of my favorite paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is a very small Albert Bierstadt painting of a ship going down. The painting is almost entirely neutral grays, but the vessel is bright yellow.  When I first saw that painting, I had an aha moment – that’s what gray can do! The restraint Bierstadt employed in his palette gave added drama to the moment depicted. I had his painting in mind when I started work on Watching the Fog Lift. Enjoy!


TM8204 Portrait 12×12 oil on panel

Portrait – a picture of something or someone intensely observed. Often the word portrait conjures a picture of someone important, or a school picture of a family member. But a portrait can be anything keenly observed. To do a portrait is to become one with the subject, to see the minutia of detail and form, then decide how to translate this, and one’s emotional response, onto a two-dimensional surface. Painting a portrait of a rock is a way to find the spirit of a place, and pay one’s respects.  Amen. 

Technical painting notes –  I selected this “view” because of the way the nomen rock really stood out from the much smaller stones around it, and the beauty of the pure form of the rock. It looked like it had rolled into place long ago, and yet it’s eventual fracture is clearly evident. Surprisingly, it has remained intact and in the same place on the Quoddy Head for as long as I have been visiting. It is a rock with a gently defiant personality, and another of my favorite nomen rocks. Placing the primary subject almost dead center on the panel was a conscious choice. Icons, and many other traditional religious paintings, usually save the center for that which is sacred and most important. Placing the rock in the center is a traditional expression of  honor. Balancing the central “formality” necessitated introducing a sense of chance – the slope of the shingle and the interruption of a few modestly larger stones into the pattern of the shingle does this. The fog was accentuated  in part for the sense of mystery it provided, and also to represent that which we can’t see.

I used a limited palette of burnt umber, ultramarine blue, transparent iron oxide, pyrrol red, gold ochre, sap green, greenish umber, dioxazine violet and titanium white. The combination of complements (warm reddish colors mixed with ultramarine blue) provided sufficient color and tonality, while allowing me to emphasize the drawing and form.

Homage to the Nomen Rock

TM8200 Homage to the Nomen Rock 12×12 oil on panel

Homage to the Nomen Rock  – what is a nomen? It is the landmark, the thing which stands out in the landscape, the visible sign that tells us where we are, and the emblem or vessel that carries the spirit of that particular place.  This is the outcrop that I visit first each time I go to Quoddy Head in Lubec, Maine. It carries a little of everything – iron oxides, gorgeous quartz crystals and intrusions, thick bands of smoothly grained dark gray granite, and, at low tide, a mantle of richly colored seaweed. It is, and represents, the mother of all the fractured and tossed stones around it. And it glistens in the fog.  My nomen. Enjoy!

Technical painting notes – I’m preparing a painting demo, not of this painting, but another which also features a nomen rock and firs. Coming soon!

Morning at Quoddy Head

TM8168 Morning at Quoddy Head 36x48 oil on panel

 The fog comes in; the fog goes out. It’s as if the world were only partly present, and secrets were being withheld. Perhaps the artist in me thinks that if I keep painting, I’ll uncover something  – though I don’t know what. So it’s back to Quoddy Head again, and neighboring Campobello Island, to look for a new way to share this special place.

Of Special Interest! The town of Lubec, Maine (home of the Quoddy Head State Park) is celebrating its bicentennial this summer with festivities that include an art auction.  Artwork will be on display at the Lubec Grange July 2 – 8,  with a closing reception July 8 at 4:30 – 7pm. Last bids at 6pm, all for a fine cause! Below is a sneak preview of my contribution to the auction, Miscellaneous Punctuations #1. For additional information about the auction and events, e-mail questions to    

Miscellaneous Punctuations #1 12×12 oil on panel. This painting, indeed my whole stones series, was inspired by my first visit to Quoddy Head State Park. Walking the shingle on a misty, fog shrouded afternoon and finding (millions!) of striped and subtly shaded, ocean-tossed stones – I was entranced. They became the vocabulary for many abstract yet realistic paintings.

A Moment’s Pause

TM8049 A Moment's Pause 36x36 oil on panel


Even though the shadows are lengthening, I’m still thinking about a certain morning I experienced in Lubec last May.  It was an early morning walk with fog departing, and I found myself in a landscape of stones piled around the shoulders of ancient mountains.  It felt so alien, stark, and yet powerfully serene.  There was only the slightest touch of color leftover from sunrise, and it seemed to make the seaweed glow. A Moment’s Pause is the newest addition to the  Lubec/Campobello Series.