Peter’s Peonies

TM9280 Peter’s Peonies 30×36 oil on panel

My grandmother had a gorgeous bank of peonies curving along the driveway. Every spring, I spent hours sniffing them, and hoping they would bloom at exactly the right time to bring one to school for my teacher. This seldom happened, Peonies bloom when they are ready, not for us, and their magnificent blossoms don’t last long, especially if stormy weather is in the forecast. Last summer, I spotted my neighbor Peter’s peonies in the Victory Gardens. They were blown over by the previous night’s storm, but still beautiful  – perhaps more so because the storm emphasized their fragility. I knew I would eventually paint them. Here they are, in all their glory. Details below.

TM9280 Peter’s Peonies – detail from left side with wind-blown blossoms

TM9280 Peter’s Peonies – detail from upper right

TM9280 Peter’s Peonies – detail from upper edge

TM9280 Peter’s Peonies – detail showing use of brush, rubber roller, and silicone scraper to manipulate paint

Technical painting notes: I used mostly monoprint techniques and soft rubber rollers to create this painting. The base layer was a mix of dark greens and black, rolled onto the panel then manipulated with solvent and rags. I “drew” the image with silicone scrapers while the paint was wet. When the initial layer was dry, I rolled on transparent glazes and painted into the wet glazes to add denser color to the highlights. I used 1-3″ rollers to block in the leaves and flowers, refining some of the strokes with traditional, soft watercolor brushes. A 1/4″ Takech rubber roller was used for finer details. The layering of roller and brush work in wet paint has the advantage of fostering unusual color blends and a variety of soft and crisp edges.

Hydrangea Morning

TM9278 Hydrangea Morning 30 x 40 oil on panel

Maybe it’s still winter outside, but my thoughts are turning toward spring and summer – especially working on garden-themed subjects for my paintings. Hydrangea Morning, with its light, sunny palette reminds me of morning walks with my dog along the streets of Boston, and especially through the Victory Gardens. We stop and sniff, saying hello to our favorite specimens. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9278 Hydrangea Morning – detail from upper right with breeze-blown leaves and blossom

TM9278 Hydrangea Morning – detail from upper left showing use of roller and brush applied paintTechnical

TM9278 Hydrangea Morning – detail from lower edge with close-up of blossom

Technical painting notes: I used my soft rubber rollers extensively on this painting. For the first layer, I rolled a mixture of dark greens mixed with black and brown, then proceeded to wipe away the highlights. I spattered solvent on the panel, then re-rolled areas to lift and distribute paint. Scrapers were used to draw the image, especially for stems and leaves. When the first layer was dry, I rolled on transparent color to block in the leaves and blossoms, letting the roller skip and jump across the panel.  Some brushwork helped to define the patterns, which were then re-rolled to suggest motion. For the flowers, I purposely picked up dots of tinted white paint on the roller and rolled out the paint, letting chance intervene.

From the Victory Gardens


TM9275 From the Victory Gardens 36×72 oil on panel

The Fenway neighborhood of Boston has an urban jewel that is not often mentioned – the Victory Gardens. Begun in 1941 the gardens helped the war effort. Now they provide an oasis of greenery (flowers, herbs, some vegetables and fruits) and many  paths for delightful meandering. Although major roads circle the park, the gardens allow one to experience a different, slower pace and immerse oneself in nature. Last year, I started a series of floral and garden subjects based primarily on my daily walks through the gardens with my dog, a smallish rescue named Boo. We sniffed our way along at our own levels, sharing the best smells. I miss those walks, so I decided to recreate the feel of being out with Boo in the gardens on a 36×72″ panel. From the Victory Gardens shows a lush bank of coreopsis and hydrangea trying to escape a wire fence, all framed by a vibrant blue sky. It is supreme summer, warm and breezy. Put on your pretend hat and join us. Details below.

TM9275 From the Victory Gardens – detail from upper center

TM9275 From the Victory Gardens – detail from upper left showing use of rollers and brushwork

TM9275 From the Victory Gardens – detail from lower center (dog’e eye view)

TM9275 From the Victory Gardens – detail from lower right with blossoms and wire fence

TM9275 From the Victory Gardens – detail from lower left with coreopsis and hydrangea


Technical painting notes: From the Victory Gardens was painted primarily with rollers. I used an assortment of Speedball soft rubber rollers to build the image, starting with a base layer that ranged from black through various greens and golds. Mixing some Liquin Impasto medium into the oil paint speeds drying and translucence. The rollers can be manipulated to create various shapes by “dancing” them across the surface, allowing skips and hops. You can pick up paint on only part of the roller then roll out repeats of whatever shape the splotch creates. You can blend two colors on the roller. You can also get lovely gradations of color by rolling into wet areas of adjacent color to blend and soften edges. I used a 1/4″ Takech rubber roller for some of the line work, and a regular nylon square-tipped brush for other refinements. Painting with a roller encourages risk-taking and helps me to keep the subject fresh and lively.

Drifting Past November

TM9273 Drifting Past November 42×48 oil on panel

The stately silence of late autumn is the subject of Drifting Past November. Glowing with rich crimson, violet, and touches of sienna, this pondscape shows the season’s last leaves floating on a slow current. Waterside branches overhang the water, their reflections (and a few pale leaves) captured in the still water. The play of dark, emotional reds against calm blues, and the streak of slant light illuminating the current, speaks to the low sun and deep shadows that signal the season. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9273 Drifting Past November – detail from upper right showing last leaves drifting on a slow current

TM9273 Drifting Past November – detail from left of center with sky and waterside branches reflected in the pond

TM9273 Drifting Past November – detail from lower right showing use of rollers and scrapers to suggest reflected and submerged vegetation

Technical painting notes: I used oil paint mixed with Liquin Impasto medium to roll on the first layer, manipulating the soft rubber roller so that it would skip and dance across the primed panel. Silicone scrapers were used to “draw” the stems and suggest the plant materials. I used soft paper towels to wipe out lights, then added more color by rolling a wet-on-wet glaze onto the panel. When this first layer was dry, I repeated the use of rolled glazes, occasionally drawing with a brush to bring out details. Repeated roller and brushwork, using primarily transparent pigments, provided enough detail and the glowing color. I wanted the mysteriousness of November – more suggestion and less exacting detail.

Camellias, Seen through Winter Eyes

TM9264 Camellias, Seen through Winter Eyes 28×32 oil on panel

With all the frozen blue violets of winter around me, I felt a sojourn with some camellias would offer some respite. But the colors of winter followed me into this new painting. It was refreshing to paint new forms, but the cold blue sky outside affected what I saw. So here they are, my (almost) icy camellias. You never know what will happen in the studio…details below. Enjoy.

TM9264 Camellias, Seen through Winter Eyes – detail from upper right with opening camellia

TM9264 Camellias, Seen through Winter Eyes – detail from left side showing layered delineation of leaves

TM9264 Camellias, Seen through Winter Eyes – detail showing layered use of brush and roller work, investigation of line vs. shape

Technical painting notes: I started the painting using a 4″ soft rubber roller to “loosely” roll a mixture of blue/black and dark green oil paints onto the panel surface. I used a silicone scraper to draw the gestures of the flowers and leaves, then spritzed the surface with mineral spirits and re-rolled (or redistributed) the paint. I used a rag to wipe out some of the lighter areas, then drew some more with the scraper. At this point, I let the painting dry thoroughly. The next day, I glazed colors onto the surface and started working with a brush and thin paint to define the forms. Alternating use of roller and brush kept it loose and provided many happy accidents. Additional glazes and painted highlights (still alternating brush and roller) adjusted the color harmonies and added unexpected light to the subject.

Basking in the Heart of January

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January 30×30 oil on panel

Every woodland has its moments, and this view over a clearing and creek, then up into the hill beyond, glistens with a strong January sun. These are days when you could use a pair of sunglasses, but who could bear to alter the blues and violets, and warm ochres  and siennas in the branches? Not me. Details below. Enjoy.

Technical painting notes: The first stage was rolling a thinned layer of sienna, mixed with violet and umber, onto the whitely primed panel. I scraped into the wet paint to indicate trees and limbs, the spattered some blue-grey paint, and some solvent, to “interrupt” the paint surface, giving it more depth. A few days later, when this base layer was dry, I started to block in the sky, then trees, with a more opaque oil paint.

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – second day, blocking in the sky and using small roller charged with transparent grey paint to block in ground plane in woods

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – second day, close-up showing sky blocked inn, beginning to define tree limbs with highlights over scraped areas, streaky color from base layer showing through

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – second day, beginning to paint tangled growth in foreground, light grey paint rolled over textured color in creek area

I like to work the whole painting, not getting to bound up in the details too early. Using a roller to pick up and reposition wet paint keeps me from worrying the details too soon, and contributes a sort of anarchy that suits the subject. I use Liquin medium to speed the drying time.

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – close-up showing roller marks t indicate ground plane in the woods, spatter from underlayer showing through


TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – end of third day with contrasts developed and shadows refined

On the third day I continued to paint directly with the brush, developing more detail in the trees, and rolling into the wet paint to reposition and multiply the effect of the trees. This serves to soften some edges as well, increasing the sense of depth. By now, the paint was beginning to get “sticky” so I left it to dry.

The fourth day I selectively glazed the shadows. intensified the whites, and added more snow to the trees and tangles. The painting now felt the way I remembered that day, full of cold and joy and wonder.

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – fourth day with more translucent white paint re-rolled onto sunlit areas to increase vibrancy, blue and violet glazes added to woods to define shadows, additional snow added to tangled growth and a few trees for contrast

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – close-up of tangled growth by the creek

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – detail from left of center


Winter’s Creek, four studies


This week’s studies are based on a walk I took to visit one of my favorite creeks. With the sun out, is there anything better?

Technical painting notes: The studies were all done on rag paper coated with shellac, front and back, to equalize the tension. I lay down mid to dark values using Liquin as my medium on the first day, When the paint is dry (usually the following day), I develop the image, laying in lights then mid-tones.