Winter is, to me, a glorious season. I love the starkness of it – brilliant blues, eye-watering whites, and tiny spots of red or dark green that sing out against the cold. This year, there has been so little snow in Boston and environs that I’ve had to hunt for that joy in the multitude of grays that surround me. Ode to the Dark Days is based on the woods and ponds I pass on my way to the studio each day. Layers of brush, bramble, and buckthorn surround the swamps and ponds, while the higher ground claims its share of oaks, ironwood trees, pine, and hemlock. This painting is a compilation from the area around one of the ponds. It is also a compilation in the physical sense, with layers of impasto standing in for the detritus of a season uncovered by snow – leaves, acorns, bare branches, etc. Quiet, maybe somber, but it still tells the story of this place on which I so depend, and the story of an endangered season. Details below. Enjoy.
Playing with new ideas for how to describe the landscape, and my favorite pond environment in particular. The small 7×7″ studies in oil and pencil are growing up, and I’m enjoying the liberation of drawing and painting at the same time. The layers of pencil, roller, and brush strokes show the thinking process behind the painting and feel more expressionistic. The 36×36 panels are starting to feel small again! I’m loving it! Details below. Enjoy.
With all the melting and refreezing, it’s a strange winter. The ice pond continues to fascinate me, however, with its always changing patterns and configurations. Who would guess that a little bit of grass, mud, water and ice could be so intriguing?
A request from Powers Gallery in Acton, Massachusetts was the impetus for this early summer view of my dear pond. The small nesting box at the center of the painting tells you someone really cares. There used to be a few of these boxes on stilts, but a few have fallen. We need someone with a rowboat and someone with a shop to help build more homes and install them. The location is Hamlen Woods in Wayland, a town-owned conservation area.
I was so excited to see the temperatures drop for a bit, giving me a chance to do some new studies from the Ice Pond. The exceptionally warm winter weather makes me feel like I’m painting endangered seasons, and I am! So, so sad.
Sometimes the paintings feel more like weavings then pictures. In this case, the reflected image in a late autumn pond offers layers of interlocking leaves, branches, the last duckweed, floating leaves, and a soft blue-gray sky. The pattern on pattern on pattern is an exercise in patience, while the act of painting remains a wonderfully meditative process. Details below. Enjoy.
Many people ask why I spend so much time rambling around Hamlen Woods, painting the same swamps and trees, pond and creek. Why not go to (fill in the blank). They don’t understand that every visit is new. I know the heron’s favorite trees, where the ferret swims, where the snakes like to sun in the fall, and where ducks like to wade the path to get to the bigger pond. Also the best spots for blueberries, the shallows where the frogs hold forth, and when to photograph the swans without scaring them. In winter, I study ice patterns, and they are always different. Last week I saw columns of crystals growing in the shallows, connecting the icy surface to the pond floor. I never see the same thing twice.
And then there’s what happens when I return to the studio, full of ideas, sounds, and visually memorized details to paint. Each painting session includes whatever I saw (and felt) from my last visit, merging into one visual statement that somehow expresses another aspect of the place.
What we find in the woods is mysterious and true is certainly an example of this hybridization. It also delves further into my experimentation with rollers and pencils as tools for painting. Details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting note: Since the captions describe some of the process, let me just add that while the linework variations are becoming more diverse, I am also interested in the contrasts of transparency vs. opacity, and letting some of the thinly glazed substrate show through in the final painting, making the layers more obvious and enhancing the sense of depth.
Yes, there are times when you know something is ominously heading your way, and there isn’t much time to paint! A quick study from Quoddy Head. Enjoy.