The Noble Grasses – Homage to the Rimpa Artists

TM9713 The Noble Grasses – Homage to the Rimpa Artists 42×42 oil on panel

Visiting the pond regularly, I’ve watched the slow transformation of tufted swamp grasses from green to gold to nearly a parchment color as winter takes hold. Bound by ice they have a grace and nobility about them that I admire. Perhaps my deep respect for the Japanese Rimpa artists and their gorgeous screen paintings of grasses also informs this new painting. The way these artists concentrated on nature and subjects others might consider insignificant appeals to me. Everything in nature is important. Everything has a purpose. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9713 The Noble Grasses – Homage to the Rimpa Artists – detail
TM9713 The Noble Grasses – Homage to the Rimpa Artists – detail from right side
TM9713 The Noble Grasses – Homage to the Rimpa Artists – detail from lower right

I chose to draw as well as paint the grasses for several reasons. First the aesthetic quality of line dark gray/black contrasting with color, but also I think the line drawing performs another role – that of reminding us the grasses are like a memory and a premonition of what they will be again.

Early Spring at Hamlen Woods

TM9712 Early Spring at Hamlen Woods 36×30 oil on panel

This local wetland has been on my mind for a good 15 years. This year it happened. Enough painting experience, a more knowledgeable eye, and the motto if not now, when? Now, I can’t wait to do more interpretations of this rich ecosystem. Details below. Enjoy!

TM9712 Early Spring at Hamlen Woods – detail from upper left
TM9712 Early Spring at Hamlen Woods – detail from center
TN9712 Early Spring at Hamlen Woods – detail from right side
TM9712 Early Spring at Hamlen Woods – detail from upper right

Technical painting notes: I started with a 4″ soft rubber roller, drawing gestures of trees and some values on the white panel. When that was dry, I glazed, then began the process of defining the major values and shapes using soft brushes and oil paint with an alkyd medium. As the work progressed, I switched back to the rollers for glazes and to soften or smudge some areas. At this point I wanted to liven things and reintroduce crisp marks, so I worked with an ebony pencil drawing into the wet paint. A few days of back and forth – brush, pencil, roller, scraping – and it was finished. Looking at the finished painting, I can see where this could lead in several directions. More views throughout the seasons, but also zooming in on different aspects and letting the paintings become more abstract. What fun!

Early Signs of Spring

TM9711 Early Signs of Spring 36×36 oil on panel

Early Signs of Spring is really about that in-between time when green shoots rising from the shallows (and some crimson branches showing signs of life) are still surrounded by the rough and scratchy vestiges of winter. When I see those little green shoots I want to sing, and thank them for returning. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9711 Early Signs of Spring – detail from upper right
TM9711 Early Signs of Spring – detail from right side
TM9711 Early Signs of Spring – detail from lower right

Technical painting notes: This painting evolved over time, starting as a view of the pond in this snowless winter but evolving into late winter and early spring. Something about too much gray, perhaps? I just had to add color, and after layers of rolling and drawing, the heavy impasto textures seemed to evoke the heaviness of mud and sticks, reminding me of the energy needed for green sprouts to emerge and claim their space.

The Early Days of Spring

TM9710 The Early Days of Spring 30×36 oil on panel

The Early Days of Spring is a new look at my pond using new tools and a more poetic approach. I started with monoprint techniques on the panel, then switched to oil glazes and some brush work before digging in with pencil and roller. Alternating the means gave me the gentleness and mystery I wanted with just enough definition. As a student I was always intrigued by the way some artists could go back and forth between seeing as a drafter and as a painter. It has taken a while, but I’m beginning to see both ways simultaneously. What fun! Details below. Enjoy.

TM9710 The Early Days of Spring – detail from upper right
TM9710 The Early Days of Spring – detail from middle left side
TM9710 The Early Days of Spring – detail from center
TM9710 The Early Days of Spring – detail from right side
TM9710 The Early Days of Spring – detail from lower left

Meltwater Season

TM9619 Meltwater Season 36×54 oil on panel

Some paintings are in development for a long time. Meltwater Season is one of those paintings. I started it, then put it away a couple years ago when the season changed before I could finish the painting. Last year I hauled it out again, bringing it closer to completion. But this year proved to be the magic year. Enough experience, enough inspiration (absolutely missing the white stuff during this mostly snowless winter!). The painting expresses my wonder in the presence of all the ways water in the pond freezes then melts, and the ice-encased grasses in the shallows. Details below. Enjoy!

TM9619 Meltwater Season – detail from upper left
TM9619 Meltwater Season – detail from right side
TM9619 Meltwater Season – detail from center

The two views below show the painting in progress.

TM9619 Meltwater Season, getting started
TM9619 Meltwater Season, nearly finished

Bright Blue and Summer’s New

TM9707 Bright Blue and Summer’s New 36×42 oil on panel

Enough with the winter grays! I love every shade of gray, but there’s a limit. A couple days of strong sun after the deep freeze and all I want to paint are the bright greens and blues of the warmer seasons. This new view of the pond in late spring/early summer is all about joy and rhythm, the syncopated rhythm of reflections contrasting with the serenity of duckweed floating by at its own pace. Time to take a deep breath then dance! Details below. Enjoy.

TM9707 Bright Blue and Summer’s New – detail from upper right
TM9707 Bright Blue and Summer’s New – detail from left side
TM9707 Bright Blue and Summer’s New – detail from upper left
TM9707 Bright Blue and Summer’s New – detail from right side

Meditation on a Quiet Afternoon

TM9706 Meditation on a Quiet Afternoon 30×30 oil on panel

I keep saying to myself, spring will return, it will!

I think this painting from the pond in spring is my unconscious trying to warm me up. The beavers will find many downed trees and limbs for their lodge improvement plans. While the temperatures have been mostly warmish, the trees took a beating with the high winds and flooding wetlands. Detail below. Stay warm!

TM9706 Meditation on a Quiet Afternoon – detail from center

Ode to the Dark Days

TM9704 Ode to the Dark Days 36×36 oil on panel

Winter is, to me, a glorious season. I love the starkness of it – brilliant blues, eye-watering whites, and tiny spots of red or dark green that sing out against the cold. This year, there has been so little snow in Boston and environs that I’ve had to hunt for that joy in the multitude of grays that surround me. Ode to the Dark Days is based on the woods and ponds I pass on my way to the studio each day. Layers of brush, bramble, and buckthorn surround the swamps and ponds, while the higher ground claims its share of oaks, ironwood trees, pine, and hemlock. This painting is a compilation from the area around one of the ponds. It is also a compilation in the physical sense, with layers of impasto standing in for the detritus of a season uncovered by snow – leaves, acorns, bare branches, etc. Quiet, maybe somber, but it still tells the story of this place on which I so depend, and the story of an endangered season. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9704 Ode to the Dark Days – detail from upper right
TM9704 Ode to the Dark Days – detail from left side
TM9704 Ode to the Dark Days – detail from upper left
TM9704 Ode to the Dark Days – detail from left of center showing impasto and pencil