TM9358 Autumn Afternoon at the Pond 30×60 oil on panel
I never really know what I’ll see when I walk down to the pond, but I always know there will be something spectacular to paint. This past week, everything was glowing gold, a color that signals the end of autumn is close by. Between the trembling and falling leaves, blue sky, and a few scarlet maples hiding(?) behind the birch and willows – well – it was better than fireworks. Returning to the studio I knew I had to find a way to share the experience. Not just the facts, but the feel of all that color and the sense of being immersed in it. Autumn Afternoon at the Pond is my homage to the experience and my way of saying thank you. Details below. Enjoy.
TM9358 Autumn Afternoon at the Pond – detail with gesture of leaves from upper right
TM9358 Autumn Afternoon at the Pond – detail showing effects of wind
TM9358 Autumn Afternoon at the Pond – detail from lower edge with reflected red tree behind swaying branches
Technical painting notes: This painting on panel is all about using primarily soft rubber rollers to apply the paint in layers, intermixing a bit of brushwork for variety. I mix a group of colors, add Winsor Newton Liquin Impasto medium to help with the rolling out and drying, then just begin rolling. The paint application is thin, so that colors can blend and show through. Over the course of a few days, the layers of transparent rolling can really start to glow. I’ve found over the years that too much careful detail can interrupt the feeling of spontaneous arrival – as if we are arriving at a place with a magnifying glass. All that matters is the telling detail – the idiosyncratic moment that captures the spirit of what’s going on, and reveals some careful looking but more joy than determination.
TM9355 Winter Fields #3 7×7 oil on paper
TM9353 Winter Fields #1 7×7 oil on paper
TM9354 Winter Fields #2 7×7 oil on paper
I love the sparkle of winter; I love the way snow abstracts the familiar and makes it magical, and I love figuring out how to get that magic into a painting. In preparation, I’ve started some small studies based on fields I visited last winter. Here are the first three, with more to follow… Enjoy!
Technical painting notes: The paintings are on rag watercolor paper, primed with clear shellac on both sides. I used oil paint and alkyd medium, working mostly with a palette knife (and a small, flexible nylon flat for details).
TM9351 October’s Pond 36×40 oil on panel
There’s a phrase from a Mary Oliver poem “….the daily pretensions…” which I suspect stays with me because it sums up everything I hope my work is not about. I’m more interested in what humbly endures, which is where Oliver’s heart resides too. October’s Pond is my lavish scrutiny of the wonders next door (or at least a short way down the road). These days of rampant red and crimson, set against a warm blue, cloud-studded sky, are few in number. It makes them all the more precious. Soon a great wind will come along, followed by a northern cold front, and the color will fly away, to be replaced by the bronze season of oak leaves and frost. Ah well. that will be beautiful too, as long as I remember to really look….enjoy. Details below.
TM9351 October’s Pond – detail from lower left with reflected leaves
TM9351 October’s Pond – detail from right side with lightly floating leaves and reflections
Technical painting notes: The painting began by rolling on a staccato rhythm of roller strokes, using burnt sienna and some burnt umber mixed with Winsor Newton’s Liquin impasto medium and a dash of mineral spirits and stand oil. I manipulated the wet paint with a scrap of plastic bag and solvent, roughly streaking the paint to suggest movement. When this base layer was dry, I glazed parts of the panel then proceeded to use a brush and oil paint to block in the “negative” sky reflections. Interweaving sky and leaves proceeded apace, sometimes usng a soft brush, sometimes a soft rubber roller. I repeated the process for a few days, then worked on finding the branches and some more descriptive stems – again using brush and a narrow roller. Final mostly transparent glazes softened the feel of the painting – suggestive of the warm humid atmosphere of that particular day. The leaves floating onto the water came last.
‘s heart is too
TM9330 New England Coastline #9 7×7 oil on paper
The summer studies continue with this small painting from Bass Rocks, so easy to recognize with that honey-colored glow. This one is on a rougher watercolor paper, which lends its coarse texture to the stone. I used a shellac primer so the texture wouldn’t be compromised by a heavy pigment coating.
TM9322 Up on Bass ROcks 36×48 oil on panel
There’s a time for drama and a time when quiet is most appreciated. Up on Bass Rocks seems to be a meditative, peaceful morning, with a view out to sea and a retreating fog bank. But in truth, if you love geology, the thrill of touching such an ancient mountain is fantastic. In some ways, the painting is about time – long, stretched out time. The ancient granite, bruised by glaciers and pummeled by the sea, is alive with crystals and abstracted by fractures. To paint it, one’s own sense of time has to slow down as well. The layers of paint and texture can’t be rushed; the tantalizing forms need to reveal themselves. Enjoy.
TM9322 Up on Bass Rocks – close-up of granite with bands of quartz crystals and yellow lichens
Technical painting notes: The painting was built in layers. The first layer of paint, applied with a soft roller and crumpled (re-used) plastic film, was rough, streaky and transparent. I spattered mineral solvents on the paint and re-rolled the surface repeatedly to achieve grainy textures. I also spattered paint in places, for more depth. The opaque dots of paint contrast nicely with the open spots where the mineral spirits has left deficits of paint. When the first layer was dry, I layered transparent glazes, then painted into the wet glazes with soft brushes and more transparent color. Occasionally I applied paint with the roller, to get more interesting “accidents.” Additional layers of glaze and stippling refined the color and textures.
TM9315 Following Low Tide 36×54 oil on panel
Wide expanses of sky and a disappearing ocean provide the subject for this large painting from Lubec, Maine. The surprise of seeing what lies beneath the water always rouses my curiosity. Rivulets and pools interspersed with ribbons of sand, slippery green algae, and peat banks form complex patterns across the nearly flat plane. A distant headland is barely visible in the encroaching fog. This is a quiet place. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I used a soft rubber roller to lay down a streaky layer of dark reddish brown oil paint, swished a manipulated with mineral spirits to suggest some of the textures I wanted. Later, as I worked up the details from the scene, the painting started to get too fussy, so I took out the roller again and simply re-rolled over some of the wet paint to “disturb” it. Patterns of wet paint repeated themselves as they came off the roller, creating a more interesting effect. I also rolled a semi-transparent layer of the gray/beige to suggest the sand, then let the accidents of rolling determine where the darker wet sand would be. FInal touches were highlighting the ridges of sand with more opaque paint, adding the strips of water caught between the ridges, and introducing a warm light to some of the further sand patches. Multiple grey glazes of fog pushed the horizon into the deeper distance.
TM9298 Watching the Waves Come In #243 7×7 oil on paper
TM9299 Watching the Waves Come In #244 7×7 oil on paper
TM9303 Here It Comes 7×7 oil on paper
Watching the Waves Come In is a long-term series that is always in development. Every time I learn something new I see what effect it will have on my little wave paintings. Or sometimes these small paintings inform my larger work. Either way, they are a delight to paint. I used to use a brush when working on them, but now it is mostly the palette knife, with more attention paid to the viscosity of the paint and the choice of paper – smooth or textured watercolor paper (primed). I look for ways to let the viscosity emulate the action of the water – more like sneaking up on the subject rather than trying to copy a moment or view. This approach, at least for me, yields more of the feel of my watery subject. It also allows for random accidents to influence the painting’s development, and life is certainly about the accidents. Enjoy.