September, My Love

TM9598 September, My Love 7×7 oil on paper

Yes, my favorite season has to be fall. It isn’t just the range of colors, but the return of cooler nights and more moderate days. This small painting sums up the glowing light of autumn, when gold and citrine drench the woods and air. Enjoy!

On the Trail

TM9597 On the Trail 7×7 oil on paper

It’s a familiar trail through Purgatory Charm. You start in open sunlight and descend to the bottom of the damp, boulder strewn, rock-walled chasm. Warm to cool, easy to difficult, bright to mysterious. And it happens quickly. No matter how many times I visit, it thrills me. So, when I started this little painting at the beginning of the week, I thought I knew where I was going. But from the first stroke, something was new. The nearly black shadows were suggestive enough to stand on their own, so I concentrated on the sunlit trees and foreground ledge and boulders. A few scraped out trunks and branches were enough to say “trees.” The white of the paper left of center implied sunlight deeper in the woods. I decided to call it finished – partly because it felt fresh and new, partly because the abstractness of it echoed the abstract quality of this particular location. Enjoy!

Technical painting notes: I used a smooth rag printmaking paper (primed with shellac both sides). Winsor/Newton Liquin Impasto medium added substance and translucency to the paint, and sped the drying. A smallish palette knife provided control and some great accidents, A silicone scraper was used to remove paint for trunks and a few limbs. I liked the contrast of bare paper in some places with thick paint elsewhere.

From the Pine Barrens

TM9592 From the Pine Barrens 7×7 oil on paper

I’ve been thinking about Pine Barrens I’ve visited – on Cape Cod and up in Northern New Hampshire. They always have their own stark poetry of loose, sandy soil and trees struggling to survive. I think of the quiet, the sounds of insects buzzing. At times these woods can feel haunted, perhaps because one senses the extraordinary number of years it takes to build such an environment – mountains rising, then being worn away until only dense, deep sand remains. The exquisite smell of pine needs perfumes the air, and all you want to do is keep breathing….enjoy.

At the Old Quarry

TM9586 At the Old Quarry 7×7 oil on handmade paper

There are many approaches to painting – especially on the continuum of realistic to abstract. I love them all when well-executed, but I think the most interesting way of painting looks for the intersection between realism and abstraction. Where the subject is evident and the handling of paint and composition are all in service to bringing out the Zen-like essential nature of both. In a great painting, one can savor the meaning and the way the subject is presented. One also glimpses how the painting seems to be anchored by history and at the same time fresh as tomorrow. The painting transparently lets us feel the artist’s process and thinking with each stroke. Of course producing such work takes time, practice, and, I think, wisdom gained throughout one’s life. It’s one reason why I keep doing these small paintings – to try new ideas and see if they will work in the context of what I want to say.

At the Old Quarry is a case in point. It is oil on prepared handmade paper, with the texture of the paper determining how it could be painted – what was possible. The uneven surface was perfect for a broader treatment using knife, pencil, and a (silicone) pointed scraper. I knew I wanted to base it on one of the quarries I visit regularly, but the composition also nods toward Mark Rothko’s famous stacked rectangles and squares. The energetic textural “strokes” acknowledge other abstract painters – including Joan Mitchell and Wolf Kahn. Working on this 7×7″ painting gave me insights into how I can approach a large 36×80″ panel waiting for my attention.

Mr. Kroll’s Cow Pond

TM9581 Mr. Kroll’s Cow Pond 7×7 oil on paper

Wherever there are old dairy farms, there are cow ponds. This one, at the bottom of a gentle sloping field, is very near the house where I grew up. We used it for skating in winter, but the most fun was going fishing with Roger, my youngest uncle, in the summer. A clump of tree roots formed our “island”, and we wanted horned pout. It was a wonderful way to spend the day, only going home when we heard my mom ring the cowbell that meant food on the table. Enjoy.

Poem from the Parking Lot

TM9579 Poem from the Parking Lot 7×7 oil on paper

When you can’t “get away” the next best option is to find a way to love where you are, such is this dirt parking lot I spotted on my way to run errands. Why drive past? Why not pull in and look at it for a few minutes, see what’s there? Sun, trees embracing their greens, and the cast-offs of an ancient glacier. Mmmm….the quintessential humble view of my native state. Something to memorize and paint. Maybe the word poem will come later? Enjoy.

(Post Script)

I painted the dark woods
And watched all week
As my trees decided to brighten.

Ah, Melancholy, you
Have been infringed upon