Ode to the Winter Ice Pond

TM9503 Ode to the Winter Ice Pond – final version 36×54 oil on panel

The line between abstraction and realism is almost non-existent. Impressions, nuances, an impulsive color or gesture – these elements can determine the context in which we re-cognize a place or an emotional state. Ode to the Winter Ice Pond is based on my (sometimes) daily observations of a local ice pond freezing in winter. It records the changes, from open water to the first scrim of thin ice to frozen ripples. Some of the gestures are from grasses caught above and below the water, or the reddish branches that can seem so vibrant when stripped of their leaves, or outlined with snow. Is it realism? abstraction? impressionism? I don’t like categories. I just love to look, and then paint. Anything else I leave for you to figure out.

This painting went through a number of transitions, I thought it would be interesting to share its development.

TM9503 Ode to the Winter Ice Pond – Day 2 with all the primary masses and values blocked in

TM9503 Ode to the Winter Ice Pond 36×54 – Day 3 many of the details have been strengthened and multiple glazes brushed on to the panel to intensify the color, however the sweep of grasses and reflections on the left side was too pronounced and moved the viewer’s eye too quickly. – this would need to be resolved resolved, along with intensifying the feel of ice, frost, and more layering to create depth

TM9503 Ode to the Winter Ice Pond – final version 36×54 oil on panel

Details from the finished painting.

TM9503 Ode to the Winter Ice Pond – detail from right side with ice forming – I softened the edges with semi-transparent, gray-violet glazes

TM9503 Ode to the Winter Ice Pond – detail from upper left

TM9503 Ode to the Winter Ice Pond – detail from lower edge, softened and smudged will rolls of nearly transparent grey glazes

TM9503 Ode to the Winter Ice Pond – detail from upper right with ice and frost – the soft rubber roller was used to smudge the wet paint of the calligraphic frosty grasses, then used again to soften the glow of the sheen on the ice forming around the grasses

TM9503 Ode to the Winter Ice Pond – detail from lower left with slight ripples and open water

Technical painting notes: While the colors of winter at the ice pond are somewhat limited, I used warm and cool versions of the blues, greens and reds to keep the painting’s palette interesting

First Signs of Spring

TM9496 First Signs of Spring 36×48 oil on panel

The first blush of color after winter seems so exotic and filled with hope. By some standards, it’s more of a variation on gray, but we know better than to believe that. Those wisps of pink and green are harbingers of brighter colors to come. Another sign of insipient spring is the softer quality in the air. Ice and snow are gone; the water level is high, cold, and clear. I wish I could hold on to the season – but I’m sure I’ll look forward to painting the next. Enjoy. Details below.

TM9496 First Signs of Spring – detail from left side

TM9496 First Signs of Spring – detail

 

In Silence

TM8589 In Silence 30×60 oil on panel

In Silence explores the poetic qualities of color contrasted with the absence of light. It  looks at the drama of autumn, that time when we turn from bright days full of color to the deep, darkening mysteries of winter and night. The right and left sides of the painting, with reflected trees and sky, mirror the soft air and vibrancy of fall while framing the dark center. Is this, too, a reflection from deep woods? Yes, but also a metaphorical entrance into the darkness of winter. The mood is quiet; the few floating leaves suggest time’s passage and form a bridge across the center. Details below. Enjoy!

TM8589 In SIlence – detail from left side

TM8589 In Silence – detail from left of center with tree reflections

TM8589 In Silence – detail from center top

TM8589 In Silence – detail from right of center

Technical painting notes: Some paintings take a long time to finish, and this is one. I worked it up to a degree of finish, and hung it in the studio so I could ponder how to finish to it. I liked what I had, the balance of light, color, and darkness, but the center seemed a bit flat. It took a few years to figure out that small touches of golden light in the dark woods (center) made the whole painting sing. Certain things can’t be hurried.

Watching the Maples Turn

TM9494 Watching the Maples Turn 36×54 oil on panel

Every year it’s the same – I wait for the maples to turn intensely red so I can legitimately use my red pigments. For a landscape artist in New England, this is a rare and special event lasting only about two weeks at most. It’s like a burst of fireworks – you dare not blink.  These maples are by my favorite pond. The reflected autumn blue sky and clouds frame the maples, while the drifting willow leaves are a reminder of other trees nearby. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9494 Watching the Maples Turn – detail from left side with reflected sky and maples, floating leaves

TM9494 Watching the Maples Turn – detail from upper right

TM9494 Watching the Maples Turn – close-up of reflections

Looking at “A Deeper Look” again

TM8494 A Deeper Look 30×54 oil on panel

Yes, I thought this painting was finished when I posted it earlier in the week, but then nature intervened. The morning after I posted it, I was driving to the studio and the sky was spectacularly blue with glorious white cumulous clouds (after a considerable number of gray days). I looked at the painting and thought “why not?” The blue skies and clouds completely change the mood of the painting. I loved the darker, grayer version – it had a melancholy elegance  – but for me right now, I want the hope that blue skies can bring. I think we all need it. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail from upper right

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail from lower left

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail from left of center with woodland and cumulous reflections in shallow water

The painting retains its basic composition based on woodland reflections in shallow water, but with the change in sky color there is a gentleness. The next to final version, without the blue sky, is below.

TM8494 A Deeper Look 30×54 oil on panel

 

 

A Deeper Look

TM8494 A Deeper Look 30×54 oil on panel

Some paintings provide a passage into insight. The idea of allowing more of the abstract underpainting to show through in the finished painting was one of my goals in A Deeper Look. I began the painting in my usual way, but if something interesting started to happen, I let it. As the painting progressed, I realized that I was sensing both the water and the woods – almost independently. The painting was starting to feel more like my experience of the place. It was a thrilling moment. Finishing the painting meant restraining myself from painting too much – only just enough to provide a clue or hint at what I saw. This way of working is more interesting, and allows the mysterious quality of the woods and pond to dominate. A celebration moment. By letting go, the reflection I was painting became more otherworldly. Like seeing through Alice’s looking glass, an alternative reality emerged  – one more interesting than I could have imagined. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail from left of center with reflections and duckweed in shallow water

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail from lower right with woodland reflections

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.

Last Days of Summer #9

TM9490 Last Days of Summer #9 7×7 oil 9on paper

Rounding the corner on summer – tonight the forecast is for a chilly night in the 50’s – hurrah! This most recent Last Days of Summer painting depicts the pond with lingering morning shadows. I suspect the next will have more yellow! Enjoy.