Ode to a January Morning

TM9088 Ode to a January Morning 36×48 oil on panel

Ode to a January Morning has been in development since 2018, and every winter I look at it and say “not done yet….” Today, I took it out again after a visiting the ice pond last week – the place that has always inspired the idea for this painting. Once more I knew it wasn’t finished, not enough depth, not enough mystery, and the brush work looked too planned.  I took out my rollers and started mixing paint, thinking what have I got to lose? Some Bach, a fist full of rollers, and I rolled with near abandon. It felt so good, watching the details disappear under snow and shadow, just like in nature.  I used a brush and my smallest roller to restate some branches under snow, and accented the patch of deep blue open water on the left. As the roller softened and blended colors it created more depth and a luminous  quality to the surface that felt like encaustic. Details below, and at the bottom of this post you can see the earlier version of the painting. Enjoy!

TM9088 Ode to a January Morning – detail from upper right with snow

TM9088 Ode to a January Morning – detail with snow and tangled branches

TM9088 Ode to a January Morning – detail from lower left

TM9088 Ode to a January Morning – detail from upper left with far shore

and the earlier version….

TM9088 Ode to a Winter Morning (earlier version) 36×48 oil on panel


Winter Ice Pond

TM9509 Winter Ice Pond 36×54 oil on panel

Something about the way reflective surfaces yield their secrets when you look at them long enough. I’ve been studying an ice pond for quite a few years, learning about the way the thinnest layer of ice intrudes on the open water, the way ripples freeze, the soft tonal colors of ice, the bits of autumn caught in the ice, or poking through, the sky blues slipping between ice and snow – it’s all beautiful and challenging. I suspect I will be painting the ice pond again. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9509 Winter Ice Pond – detail near center

TM9509 Winter Ice Pond – detail from lower edge

TM9509 Winter Ice Pond – detail from upper left

TM9509 Winter Ice Pond – detail from right side

TM9509 Winter Ice Pond – detail from upper center

Technical painting notes: The painting went through many iterations. At one point, it felt too soft and  and “careful” so I started the painting again, right on top of the failed version. I mixed a blue/black color and roughly applied it with a soft rubber roller (again), looking to set the basic gestures and textures of the subject. The bold restart, superimposed on the softer, quieter version, brought drama and strength to the panel. I used mostly rollers to work up the new  version, with some glazing and a little brushwork. The final version still feels like my ice pond, but caught over a sequence of days. It also pays homage to the intersection of nature observed and abstract painting.



Winter Morning at the Chasm

TM9507 Winter Morning at the Chasm 36×30 oil on panel

There are beautiful mornings and there are glorious mornings – I put this morning in the glorious column. The chasm is almost impossible to navigate in the dead of winter, but with a little imagination and a good zoom lens there is plenty to inspire. I walked the road and tromped into some of the paths. This view across a narrow part of the chasm plays with the opposites of light and shade in a high key. I am especially pleased with the lower right, where the use of semi-transparent paint and a roller worked well to describe deep snow and its luminous light. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9507 Winter Morning at the Chasm – detail with sunlight and shadows

TM9507 Winter Morning at the Chasm – detail


Morning’s Sunlight

TM9504 Morning’s Sunlight 24×24 oil on panel


The inspiration for Winter’s Sunlight comes from old fields and woods surrounding a cow pond. A common enough sight when I was growing up, and a place all of us loved (for fishing, skating, and general exploring). Our first snow storm of the season brings its own magic to this favorite place. Details below, along with a sneak peek at the painting in progress. Enjoy.

TM9504 Morning’s Sunlight – detail

TM9504 Morning’s Sunlight – detail from finished foreground showing use of brushwork and spatter

And below, a look at the first and second day’s progress:

TM9504 Morning’s Sunlight – first day’s progress, mostly working with a soft rubber roller and thinned paint to block in major color areas and a few prominent forms

TM9504 Morning’s Sunlight – second day’s progress, painting blended sky, then bringing in detail with brush and roller in the rest of the painting as I wait for the sky to dry


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.


September Days

TM9493 September Days 36×72 oil on panel

September Days is a gentle anticipation of the coming season with its bright colors and quiet tones, all reflected in the pond I so love to paint. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9493 September Days – detail from left side with reflections and floating leaves

TM9493 September Days – detail from right side

Technical painting notes: At 36×72″, this painting posed some challenges. Just seeing what I was doing during the initial stage was difficult. I usually like to start on a table, rolling the paint onto the panel and manipulating the image with (very) wet solvents and oil. However, getting far enough away to see the wet painting was nearly impossible. Next time I might try working on the floor.

Last Days of Summer #8

TM9489 Last Days of Summer #8 7×7 oil on paper

Number eight in the Last Days of Summer Series, and you can certainly feel fall around the corner. The colors in some trees are taking a slightly golden cast, and the sienna-hued shrub in front says it clearly. I know it’s a cliché, but I live to enjoy the seasonal changes. Enjoy.

Technical painting notes: Working on this little fellow, I found myself getting too tight, trying to include too much information. To keep the broader gestures strong, and subdue the detail, I used a palette knife to restore the impression and “smear” some of the detail. When I lose the “big picture” details are meaningless.

Last Days of Summer #4

TM9485 Last Days of Summer #4 7×7 oil on paper

Fourth day in my painted good-by to summer, and this time I’m at my favorite pond and conservation area in Wayland, Massachusetts. The dead trees on the left are a favorite place for the great blue heron to sit and meditate. When I walk the path around the pond, the sound of plop plop precedes me as frogs jump back into the water. Enjoy.

Technical painting notes: I use mostly 140 pound rag watercolor paper for my little oil paintings and studies. The paper is primed with acrylic gesso or clear shellac (front and back). Most of the paintings are done in two or three stages. The first day, I block in the major shapes and darkest values using a palette knife and Liquin Impasto medium. My goal is to get vibrant textures and strong contrasts. The second day, I start refining an image from the rather abstract base, using soft brushes, knife, and occasionally a soft rubber roller. Sometimes a third day is need to finish the painting. My goal in doing these small works is to keep my response to the subject fresh and let the accidents that happen when painting with a knife inform the direction the painting takes. I also want to capture the liveliness and tranquility of the place.