A Deeper Look

TM8494 A Deeper Look 30×54 oil on panel

Studying the pond, I am constantly surprised by what I see. This time it’s the reflections of cumulous clouds underlaying reflections of stalks and other growth, then superimposed with emerging duckweed. It all seems so abstract and unreal, but it is there. So are the seasons – new growth next to last year’s floating leaves. Each day brings its own presence. Detail below. Enjoy.

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail from lower left

Technical painting notes: This painting was begun using monoprint techniques on a primed and sanded panel. Thinned, dark oil paint, applied loosely with a soft rubber roller was then manipulated with solvents (streaked, spritzed, etc.) to achieve a textured and interesting base. Next came transparent glazes, then wet into wet brushwork to define major sky areas and bring out the detail in the reflected vegetation and stalks. Once this layer was dry, additional layers of detail work brought the “place” into focus. I used thinned applications of semi-transparent paint applied with the roller to bridge some of the masses. THe floating leaves were last, scraping out the center veins with a silicone scraper.

Ode to a November Pond

TM9658 Ode to a November Pond 36×40 oil on panel

November is a dark month at my pond. Everything goes silent, the days shorten, and films of ice form and reform on the water, obscuring and blurring both reflections and the mysterious shapes beneath the surface. I love the quiet colors of November and the mood of introspection. Even the pond seems to be looking within. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9658 Ode to a November Pond – detail from upper edge
TM9658 Ode to a November Pond – detail from lower edge

Technical painting notes: The painting is based on sketches and photographs from the site, but once the painting was underway, I let my intuition and memory lead. The accidental dark shapes and textures on the base layer (achieved using monoprint techniques) were so interesting I decided not to bury them under leaves. The pond revealed itself through the process of painting – who am I to interfere?


TM9655 Frozen 30×36 oil on panel

The rapid cycling last winter between frigid temperatures and thaws produced incredible patterns on the pond. I did many photographic and oil studies of the ice as it melted and reformed, embracing and embedding leaves in its surface. The results are both terribly abstract and exactingly realistic – a hybrid condition that I love. The painting was constructed using many techniques, starting with monoprint-based rolls of thin, dark paint which were spritzed with solvents, re-rolled, scratched and wiped into, then glazed. I was looking for a few bold, dark shapes that would anchor the composition – dark enough to glow through the later layers of transparent ice. The base layer also set the ground of textures. Details suggesting leaves were developed with soft brushes; additional glazes introduced more color. While the paint was wet, I used a roller loaded with transparent soft grays, off whites, and blues to subdue the detail and suggest the ice layers. A few final edges were delineated with more brushwork, layered spatter, then more rolls. The process was partly intuitive, partly based on myriad photos and studies. In many ways, the painting has a strong kinship with pattern painting. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9655 Frozen – detail from center bottom
TM9655 Detail showing ice forming at center
TM9655 Frozen – detail from lower right side

Spring Finds a Way

TM9642 Spring Finds a Way 42×48 oil on panel

Toward the end of winter, I find myself craving the bright, almost neon yellow greens of spring. It’s the desire for life and all its energy. This meadow reaching toward the woods is based on memory, invention, and that uncontrolled desire for green. I want to run into that soft grass and do zoomies, just like my dog. Here’s to life! Details below.

TM9642 Spring Finds a Way – detail from field edge
TM9642 Spring Finds a Way – detail from left side

Technical painting notes: The panel was first covered with a wash of warm sienna and a thinned napthol red/sienna mixture with some spatter texture. Once dry, I used a dark greenish black mixture thinned with oil and mineral spirits to roll in the major shapes of dark woodland, scraping out the tree, branch and deadwood shapes. Later work with rollers and brushes defined the grasses and vines. I used the edge of the roller to “draw” fine lines. Interweaving glazes and highlights brought a bit more luminosity to the painting.

The Heart Has Its Own Reference – Notes from the Creekside

TM9641 The Heart Has Its Own Reference 36×80 diptych, oil on panels

Monet’s cycle of huge paintings based on his water lily pond has always held me enthralled – even at the scale of a reproduction in a book. The magnificence of being immersed in his world and nature, the iridescence of his pulsing color, the enormity of his leap of faith in starting the project – it does feed the human spirit. It’s also as though Mr. Monet were goading me to think bigger, try harder. I’ve been listening. The Heart Has Its Own Reference is another large diptych based on my own humble little creek running near the studio and through the industrial part of Framingham. It has its own magic, especially in the warmer months when filtered light squeezes through the overhanging branches and lush growth. The creek is quite narrow, so the brush on my side seems to merge with the reflections from the far side. There’s a rich tangle of vines and some flowering trees; enough to keep me occupied for some time. I hope this new painting marks the beginning of a much larger series of diptychs (did I hear Monet say triptychs?) based on my creek. Details below, including three views from the first few days of painting. Enjoy.

Technical painting notes: the sequence of images below show the development of the painting

TM9641 The Heart Has Its Own Reference – results of first day’s work. The major color areas and rhythms are blocked in. (note my new used easel on the right – many thanks to my neighbors Linda and Henry for facilitating this fabulous purchase)
TM9641The Heart Has Its Own Reference – day two I start to find the negative areas between reflections and introduce more linear elements
TM9641The Heart Has Its Own Reference – day three brings some refinements to the color and lots of details from the reflections and brush overhanging the creek. The addition of some neutral gray/blue tones in the shadows calms down the intensity
TM9641 The Heart Has Its Own Reference 36×80 diptych, oil on panels, finished

Post script

When the painting was first posted, it had the title “Notes from the Creekside” However, that seemed too descriptive of the place it was based on, as though I didn’t trust the viewer to enjoy the painting without knowing about the creek. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was really about a place I love, and the joy of painting – a celebration. That’s when I changed the tile to “The Heart Has Its Own Reference,” a play on the idea of reference to the outside world and the inner world, as well as the way the heart ultimately tells us what to do.

One White Cloud

(SOLD) TM9631 One White Cloud 36×44 oil on panel

There are times when I almost can’t believe the day is real, as if all the best of something magical has landed at my feet and I’m afraid to look too closely for fear it will disappear. One White Cloud is from such a day. I thought I would be painting a woodland pond filled with dark tree reflections and an overcast sky, but going to the studio I happened upon a blue sky, wildflowers, and one innocent white cloud reflected in the pond. That changed everything, and this painting resulted. You never know……enjoy. Details below.

TM9631 One White Cloud – detail from upper right
TM9631 One White Cloud – detail from center with small, yellow bladderwort wildflowers
TM9631 One White Cloud – detail showing reflections with overlay of duckweed

Technical painting notes: I used a roll-up of dark greenish black, thinned oil paint for a base, then wiped and scraped away paint to reveal the basic patterns of light and dark. When this layer was dry, I glazed some color and, while the glaze was wet, began defining more detail. The painting proceeded by alternating detailed brush painting with the use of a roller to subdue areas and smudge edges. Some patterns of reflection were completely the result of “dancing” the soft rubber roller over the surface.

Chilling with the Birds

TM9628 Chilling with the Birds 24×72 oil on panels diptych (click on image to enlarge)

Trees in full color, blown by the wind, hosting multitudinous birds in concert – sometimes it can be gloriously deafening. I’m always in awe of these impromptu flash mobs of sound. Chilling with the Birds is my homage to these special events. It began with the idea of showing a bird’s eye view through the boughs, but then I got caught in one of those flash mob concerts while walking to the grocery store, and I knew there had to be some way to express the excitement I felt and heard. I think it was unconscious, letting the caligraphic descriptions of leaves morph into bird shapes too. However it came into being, it is still full of surprises for me, and suggests the wall of sound and energy I felt. Details below (and you can click on the diptych above to see it enlarged). Enjoy.

TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail from upper left corner
TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail from upper edge
TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail
TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail from lower right
TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail from center

Technical painting notes: The initial thinned oil colors rolled onto the panel were dark blackish browns, siennas, and a touch of dark green. While the paints were wet, I manipulated them with rags, scrapers, and spritzes of solvent, defining shapes and drawing in the major lines with narrow rollers or silicone scrapers. I wanted to capture the basic values and get lots of textures in this first day of work. Once the paint was dry, I brushed on glazes and began developing the shapes of the leaves. This continued for a few days, and while it was descriptive, it didn’t have enough energy, or the feel of controlled chaos, that I experienced at the actual tree. I brought out my collection of rubber rollers and started over, employing dark thinned oil paints over the existing image. Lots of spritzes of mineral spirits and rerolling produced interesting colors and textures on the underlayer, richer effects, and much more energy. When the new layer was dry, I began working on the leaves and sky spaces again, using narrow rollers and brushwork to weave leaf-like calligraphy across the panels. I also more consciously widened the palette, so that there was more red on the left moving toward coral and various yellows on the right. The introduction of stronger blue sky and white cloud shapes contributed more energy and variety to the mood. Now, everything was in motion. As the piece dried, I began to see countless “bird” shapes overlapping the leaves. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, as I had joined the birds at the tree, they had now joined me in the studio.

Scarlet Leaves (in progress)

Diptych Scarlet Leaves leaning against the studio wall to dry after first day of work.

Today I started work on a diptych to be titled Scarlet Leaves. I set up two tables to hold the panels, then worked with dark oil paints to establish primary forms and rhythms. I used burnt umber and black mixed with Liquin Impasto medium to speed drying. A mix of mineral spirits and stand oil loosened the paint so I could push it around. It was also used to thin the paint for spatter, then rerolling. creating textures, soft edges, and interesting accidents. it will take a few days for the surface to dry enough for the next layer of work. At this point, I have an idea of where I want the image to go, based on observations in the woods. The interesting part will be keeping the feel of what I saw, but allowing the accidents and interesting mishaps to inform the final result, bringing a sense of chance and the unexpected (which is also a part of being in the woods) to the final painting.