From a Favorite Trail

TM9443 From a Favorite Trail 36×20 oil on panel

Some trails become a habit. Maybe it’s because they are close-by. I tend to think it’s because they always provide a boost to the spirit and something new to appreciate. I particularly enjoy learning and recording the changes that seasons bring, then incorporating these details into my paintings. Below, you’ll find a few photos showing the development of this piece. Enjoy.

TM9443 From a Favorite Trail – first layer of painting, paint applied with a roller

On the first day of painting, I strive to block in the major values and textures. I use a roller to apply thinned oil paint, then manipulate it with mineral spirits and paper towels. I want the feel and gesture of the forms to be established.

TM9443 From a Favorite Trail – second day of painting with more defined forms and colors. On the third day, I applied a number of thin glazes to modulate the color.

The second day started with blocking in the sky and defining the trees. Compositionally, I liked the stalwart tree almost dead center as a focus and contrast to all the diagonals of the granite ledge and uplifted tree boughs. On the third day, I worked on the pattern of light on the granite, and refined the detail in the stone.

TM9443 From a Favorite Trail – close-up of trees

On the last day, I decided to bring more light and air into the trees, and lightened the distant ridge so it would recede.

TM9443 From a Favorite Trail – detail

More light and saturated color were added to the overhanging foliage, and reds and violets were glazed onto the ledge in the shadows.

TM9443 From a Favorite Trail – close-up of eroding ledge near bottom of painting

I also glazed more warmth into the stone granite at the bottom of the painting. Finished!

TM9443 From a Favorite Trail 36×20 oil on panel




Hiking to the Chasm 2 & 3

TM9425 Hiking to the Chasm #2 7×7 oil on paper

TM9426 Hiking to the Chasm #3 7×7 oil on paper

More studies from Purgatory Chasm – a perfect place to wrestle with the geometry of glacial chaos!More in the works…enjoy.


Hiking to the Chasm

TM9424 Hiking to the Chasm #1 7×7 oil on paper

Spring is quickly arriving, and it’s time to plane field trips with my students. we are hoping to spend some time at Purgatory Chasm in central Massachusetts – sketching and photographing, observing and soaking up the dramatic tectonic and glacial chaos of this piece of geography. It is a spectacular place to paint. And a challenge. While the trees haven’t leafed out quite yet, they will soon. I will be posting sneak peaks at the coming season, and views from various points on the way to the chasm. Enjoy!

Into the Woods – Joyful May

TM9005 Into the Woods – Joyful May 36×44 oil on panel

The first strokes are always the hardest, no matter that I’ve painted the subject previously. The question is how will I take everything I’ve learned and find a new way to reveal the spirit of the place. Will I focus on botanical and geological detail, or concentrate on the energy and movement, my feelings in the place? Into the Woods – Joyful May definitely takes the latter approach, and is based on the wonder and joy I felt encountering spring in one of my favorite places. The soil, what little there is, barely supports mature trees. But the trees keep growing anyway. Saplings abound, and even though the older trees are stunted in their growth, they are still beautiful and productive. The stony outcrops make walking in these woods a trick, but oh it is so worth the effort! Details below. Enjoy.

TM9005 Into the Woods – Joyful May – close-up from upper left showing various treatments of bough and branch with sky (note use of roller vs. brush and layering)

TM9005 Into the Woods – Joyful May – detail from foreground with young growth sprouting from ledgy soil

TM9005 Into the Woods – Joyful May – close-up from right of center foreground with young saplings at the field’s edge

TM9005 Into the Woods – Joyful May – close-up from center foreground

Technical painting notes: I rolled a mixture of dark browns and greens onto the panel, scraping, dabbing, and lifting the paint while it was wet, working to create a range of gestures and textures. When the base layer was dry, I started to refine the image by “pulling out” the negative shapes of sky, glazing selectively, and beginning to define he major tree forms. When the image started to tighten up, I employed a soft rubber roller to apply paint in loose patches, providing a sense of energy and movement to the trees. Additional layers of loose brushwork suggested the tumult of branches and leafy growth. Some spatter, with re-rolling and glazing, provided visual interest and, perhaps unconsciously, injected a touch of pollen.

A slightly earlier painting from another location at Purgatory Chasm, In the Heart of the Woods, depicts a portion of the gorge walk and shows why it is so difficult for trees to gain purchase in the thin soil and granite uplifts.

TM9004 In the Heart of the Woods 36×30 oil on panel



From a Walk in the Woods 1-4

One can never do enough studies; nature provides such continually changing subject matter.  This past week I visited some favorite woodlands, camera in hand. Back at the studio I couldn’t wait to record what I had seen and felt. The smell of pine needles baked in warm sun, new leaves bursting everywhere, and the glittery look of sun on mica-laden ledges. The four studies above will find their way into larger paintings, but first I might have to go back to the woods for more studies. Oh fun!

Technical painting notes: All the paintings were done on prepared, heavy weight watercolor paper (primed with a coat of shellac front and back). I used a palette knife and lots of Winsor Newton Liquin Impasto medium to lay in a base arrangement of dark shapes and colors. Later, I blocked in the sky and refined the trees and rocks with a brush and more palette knife work.  The layering process and use of Impasto medium creates a rich surface –  more of a finished painting than a sketch, though still fresh.

For the Love of Snow

TM8862 White Mountain WInter #1 6x6 oil on paper

TM8862 White Mountain WInter #1 6×6 oil on paper

TM8864 White Mountain WInter #3 6x6 oil on paper

TM8864 White Mountain Winter #3 6×6 oil on paper

TM8863 White Mountain WInter #2 6x6 oil on paper

TM8863 White Mountain WInter #2 6×6 oil on paper

TM8852 Snowfall at Purgatory Chasm 6x6 oil on paper

TM8852 Snowfall at Purgatory Chasm 6×6 oil on paper

TM8851 Roadside Snow 6x6 oil on paper

TM8851 Roadside Snow 6×6 oil on paper

I understand it’s early November, and I’m glad it’s raining outside, but I love painting snow. All those white patterns abstracting the landscape beg to become a composition. This week I visited my imaginary winter and played with scenes from a few favorite locations. A private vacation, if you please, achieved in the studio. Enjoy.

A group of eight new 6×6 oil on paper paintings were delivered to Greylock Gallery in Williamstown, Massachusetts this week. If you are in the area, stop by, or preview Greylock Gallery’s website with the link to the right.

New England Woods


Every day exploring New England is a gift, especially the opportunity to paint rock walls in the woods. The four small paintings above depict “regular” days, nothing special happening, just the confluence of light, nature, fresh air, and paint. Enjoy.

Technical painting notes: Again, I used textured and smooth papers. The first two paintings are on textured paper, and you can feel how the texture informs the feel of the rock surfaces. The last two paintings are on smoother paper.

Love that Ledge

I can’t help it – those looming grey granite surprises in the woods always add excitement to a hike and a composition. The collection of woodland paintings below all feature wonderful hard rock in contrast with the delicate trees. It’s a yin/yang thing. Enjoy.