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.
My favorite pond in Wayland is coming back to life after a few rainy days. Yesterday I saw the great blue heron stalking his preferred spot for breakfast, and the frogs are back. Green, a color that had all but disappeared this summer, is gaining its spring freshness again. The reappearance of life at the pond brought smiles to the faces of fellow hikers whom I met. The mood was hopeful, something I hope comes through in this new painting.
There’s a poetry that I hope to achieve in all my paintings – a sense of mystery and the tension between what can be described and what can only be felt. Drifting Past November was slow to evolve. It’s based on late fall by the creek, with reflections from over-hanging branches and a few leaves floating by. I brought the painting to near completion but didn’t know how to finish it. The “place” was described, but the delicate feeling where loss and beauty intersect was missing. Living with it on the wall of the studio for a couple years gave my thinking time to evolve. No longer fearing a “mistake” I added layers of red gesture drawing based on the overhanging leaves and heightened the lights. The combination of more layered glazes and brushed and rolled detail work increased the complexity and added to the sense of depth, as well as making the color more exciting. I emphasized the contrast of hard and soft edges as a metaphor for what is present and what is disappearing. Details below, along with the version that hung on the wall for two years.
There’s a gentleness to late spring and early summer, and a quiet harmony of color, especially in the greens. The Green Voice of Summer explores some of the close harmonies of the season with a somewhat abstract view of my favorite pond and its reflections. Unlike many of my autumn pondscapes, this painting whispers its mood and message. You have to stop to hear it, as did I last July when the idea began to form in my imagination. Details below. Enjoy.
Landscape painting is about cycles, the continual return of seasons, each time different and the same. This is also true of landscape painting. Each start begins with the blank white panel, a vague idea, and hope that the image will know how it wants to grow, that I will be able to work with chance and intention to find something new in the familiar. This painting, from my favorite pond, is filled with what I see every year and the particulars of this past spring – rhythms and repetitions, naked branches, white clouds, blue skies, and a certain promise that seems like hope. Details below. Enjoy.
Walking the path around the pond almost daily allows one to appreciate the small (and large) changes over time. This year the bullfrogs are thriving, croaking their little hearts out to each other in a playful syncopated chorus. Meanwhile, the smaller frogs are finding more felled trees along the water’s edge. They are taking advantage of the new habitat options, sunning themselves on the branches that skim the pond – at least until they feel my footsteps and they plop! plop! plop! back into the water. It pains me to see so many mature trees succumbing to the fierce storms we’ve had this past year, but at least here at the pond the newly renovated habitat has helped some of my little friends.
Each day, the trees are getting greener, as is the pollen film on the pond! My pondly mirror is interrupted by slender bladderworts in the shallows – slender stems carrying hooded yellow flowers. The flowers are so small they almost disappear in the reflections. After missing them for years, I now know where to look, and enjoy their emergence with the warmer weather. Add a blue sky and passing cloud, and it turns into a moment of simple joy. Details below.
Technical painting notes: The painting was “blocked in” with thin, dark, greenish brown oil paint applied with a soft rubber roller. I let the roller skip across the surface to create a broken, interrupted pattern. Spritzing the wet paint with solvent, and re-rolling the surface added more textures, while scrapers were used to indicate some of the branches. Once the first layer was dry, I glazed the painting with shades of blue and green, then started working wet into wet with a brush and broken strokes to suggest the foliage and reflected sky. I used the roller again to lay on thin, mostly transparent blues, then used spatter to suggest pollen. A very narrow roller detailed branches quickly, and provided a diversity of “marks” to keep the painting interesting.
I walk the woods so regularly I feel I have dear friends among the trees. I’ve known and painted so many of them. Hornbeams are definitely among my favorites. Also known as ironwood, they are incredibly dense. Also slow growing. Perhaps most distinctive about them is the way they hold on to their leaves all winter and into the spring. Pale, papery, dancing leaves stand out in the winter woods, the light sienna tinged color made more striking against so much blue and white. Even in spring, when signs of green are returning, the hornbeams stand out. Eventually they will shed their old leaves for new, and for a short while be camouflaged in their neighborhood. My view of hornbeam saplings on a foggy day in early spring salutes their grace. Details below. Enjoy.