Open Secrets

TM9523 Open Secrets 42×48 oil on panel

A few record-setting warm days last week prompted me to bring out a painting that has been in the works for a while. Based on my delight and sense of wonder whenever I am in the presence of trees, this painting delves into the canopy (again) and ponders what we hear as well as see – the music of trees rustling is present, as is the sense of a community of leaves, each leaf bearing its own song, its own secrets. I imagine all these songs being carried off with the wind. So public. Such open secrets. There is so much we need to learn about trees, their inner life, there deep connection  to our own existence. The solace and joy they offer us. Details below. Enjoy

TM9523 Open Secrets – detail from center right

TM9523 Open Secrets – detail from top edge

TM9523 Open Secrets – detail from upper left and center

TM9523 Open Secrets – detail from lower left



Technical painting notes: I used a soft rubber roller to layer dark oil paint onto the surface of the panel, blocking in the pattern of darks and lights and trying to achieve some interesting textures and roller strokes. When dry, I worked up the pattern of leaves, branches, stems, and sky with soft brushes, exaggerating value contrasts with the intent of covering this stage with multiple rolls of fairly transparent oil color glazes.  Days of rolling and rerolling wet glazes produced the soft focus I was hoping for, and helped to suggest both movement and the mysterious life of the leaves. Highlighting a few areas with additional brushwork completed the painting.

Meltwater Season

TM9520 Meltwater Season 36×54 oil on panel

March is a strange month – full of bluster and cold, while at the same time offering glimpses of warmth. Colors are muted, but the varieties of ice can be amazing as ponds and creeks go through cycles of freezing and thawing. Meltwater Season is mostly about the scrims of ice vying with passages of open water, ice floes below the surface, frozen bubbles and air pockets, and the frame of snow and ice retreating along the shore of this glorious in-between season. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9520 Meltware Season – detail whre shore meets pond with ice and snow

TM9520 Meltwater Season – detail from left side with thin ice

TM9520 Meltwater Season – detail from lower center with last scrim of ice over liquid water

TM9520 Meltwater Season – detail from upper left

Technical painting notes: I developed the painting in layers, starting with rolls of deep browns and blueish grays. These were followed by some intricate brush work to describe underlying vegetation – which was followed up with more roller work with semi-transparent paint to “bury” the details under snow and ice. Below is the painting at mid-stage in development.

Evening Reaches the Pond

TM9515 Evening Reaches the Pond 36×48 oil on panel

The shadows are deepening, but there is still some light – enough to see the shimmering, overhanging boughs at the pond. It is quiet. My thoughts merge with the reflections before going indoors to start supper. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9515 Evening Reaches the Pond – detail from lower left

TM9515Evening Reaches the Pond – detail from central shadows

TM9515 Evening Reaches the Pond – detail from lower right

TM9515 Evening Reaches the Pond – detail from upper left with overhanging boughs

Technical painting notes: Much of this painting was developed using soft rubber rollers in assorted sizes, refined by brushwork and glazes. I find that the interactions of rolled strokes and hand brushed strokes provides variety and excitement, even though, in this case, the values are close.  Arbitrary accidents frequently occur when rolling paint, and these too lend interest; nature is full of accidents.


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 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 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 Morning’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.