Morning on Quoddy Head #1

TM9460 Morning on Quoddy Head #1 7×7 oil on paper

Another part of the rugged coastline at Quoddy Head is this jumble of darkly volcanic rock, as seen on an overcast morning. I haven’t hiked this far very often, but oh what an incredible place! The surf pounds at the eroding cliffs and the thunderous vibrations can be felt in one’s legs. It is both primal and timeless. Enjoy!

A Quiet Snowfall

TM9242 A Quiet Snowfall 36×40 oil on panel

Most of my paintings these days have an unexpected trajectory – I start with an idea, then it suddenly morphs and I end up in a new place. This view near the edge of my pond is an example. I fell in love with some recent photographs of the spot taken this past October and November. The olive greens and russets were beautiful together, and the arc of land with a hint of the pond and creek beyond formed a good contrast with tall foreground trees. I thought the golden light would set the mood. I started painting, and it was looking pretty good……

….until I found a picture from the same spot, one I had taken last December. Oh the magic of a snowfall! Suddenly all those russets looked brown and unexciting. With the painting nearly finished, I didn’t want to stop, but I couldn’t continue either, so I picked up my trusty rubber roller and started painting in snow. Immediately, the magic was back. I plunged on, switching to a brush occasionally. The silence of falling snow was now the subject of the painting, an all-enveloping silence; it was the music I needed to hear. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9242 A Quiet Snowfall – detail showing snow clumped on boughs

TM9242 A Quiet Snowfall – detail

Technical painting notes: I suspect that the motto of the post is to trust your instincts. The painting started with a roll-up of dark rusty burnt siennas, and umbers, mixed with violet. My aim was to set the patterns of light and dark, and establish some subtle textures that would “show through” the transparent glazes I would later apply. I used a scraper to remove paint, allowing for a suggestion of the weeds and underbrush in the foreground and tree trunks in the distance. When the base layer was dry, I glazed in color and started working with brushes and my roller to refine the forms and details. Then the breakthrough  – switching the season to early winter. I used a roller and brushes to “lay” snow on everything (shades of gray, violet, and blues, mixed with Liquin). I also spattered pale blue/gray and white for snow.


Looking Up

TM8584 Looking Up 36x30 oil on panel

TM8584 Looking Up 36×30 oil on panel

Obstacles are plentiful on any trail. It might be the weather, or the terrain,  or the obstacles we find in ourselves. And there will  never be a shortage. I think that is why I paint so many views that present a beautiful, though intimidating, wall. Since obstacles rarely go away, it becomes necessary to embrace them, to find some source of fascination in them. And to find a way to, if not exactly enjoy them, at least deal with them. And besides, from this vantage, who knows what might be on the other side? Details below. Enjoy.

TM8584 Looking Up - detail with tree tops

TM8584 Looking Up – detail with tree tops

TM8584 Looking Up - close-up of stony rise with moss-covered stones and aging granite

TM8584 Looking Up – close-up of stony rise with moss-covered stones and aging granite

Technical painting notes: As usual, I used a soft rubber roller to apply a loose coat of oil paint to the panel, using a mixture of mostly umbers and blues, plus a touch of burnt sienna. While wet, the paint was manipulated with solvents and paper towels to create strong gestures evocative of the trees and old mountain. Solvents were dripped and blotted to add more textures. When the layer was dry, I glazed the panel then started painting the sky and the negative shapes between the trees. I used an old, splayed brush to dab paint on the rocks, suggesting moss or lichens, depending on color. Repeated layers of glaze and fine detail brought the image into focus. I especially wanted to show the various color bands in the rock, with some layers containing more iron (red). My goal was to achieve some specificity in the details, but maintain a strong unifying tone and feeling of lift.

TM8584 Looking Up - detail from upper left

TM8584 Looking Up – detail from upper left

Following May’s Path

TM8353 FOllowiing May's Path 30x30 oil on panel

TM8353 Followiing May’s Path 30×30 oil on panel

The path around the lake at Breakheart Reservation in Saugus, Massachusetts leads one past very ordinary, and very beautiful,  granite outcrops. Combined with the water’s reflections and a day transitioning toward sun, the experience is exquisite. My newest 30×30″ oil painting is an interpretation of such a day in May. Enjoy!

Technical painting notes for this painting are more extensive than usual, and can be found on the Demos Page in the menu above.

Adirondack #2

TM8292 Adirondack #2 17×17 oil on panel

Based on a touring trip through the Adirondack Region a few years ago, this particular spot has stayed with me, both for its rugged beauty and its intimacy. The addition of a hint of autumn color and the transience of falling leaves, so fragile against a backdrop of weathered granite, just begged to be painted. Enjoy!

From Silence

TM8281 From SIlence 16×16 oil on panel

We all have favorite places, and Purgatory Chasm State Reservation is one of mine. With its chaotic jumble of tumbling granite walls, it feels as though a grumpy giant came through and whacked  at the walls, leaving mayhem behind. The  violent forces that create the chasm are evident everywhere, though it is also a beautifully quiet place. A geological fault line and too many freeze thaws to count have made the chasm a dramatic hiking destination. The chasm also provides a rich “library” for studying stones ( feldspar, schist, veins of quartz, lots of mica). The damp walls and abundant shade create ideal conditions for many varieties of moss and lichens.

In this painting I focused on some of the complex boulders close at hand – a portrait really – with a suggestion of the foggy woods beyond. The perspective is quite low, looking up from the trail at the bottom of the gorge. It’s a fun perspective, and provided a contrast of near and far that I found intriguing to paint – a theme in need of further development in the next painting! Enjoy.

Adirondack #1

TM8268 Adirondack #1 16×16 oil on panel

To the mountains! The recent and inspiring drive to and around Saratoga Springs, New York brought back memories of hikes around the Adirondacks and the beautiful, yet intimate, views to be found there. Again, the theme of life struggling to find a foothold is evident, and the remarkably complex geometry of old mountains wearing away provides the context. Adirondack #1 is the first of what I hope will be a series of new paintings based on the natural environments found in New England and New York’s mountains.

Why the shift in subject matter? It is partly the outstanding beauty of the region that inspires me, but also the chance to paint hard surfaces after so many months working with water. And a change of palette. And the challenge of figuring out something new. And…I’m sure many more reasons that I can only guess at now….


Slant Sun at Nauset

TM8236 Slant Sun at Nauset 12x12 oil on panel











Slant Sun at Nauset is my homage to that quiet time at the end of the afternoon when the sun is lowering and the beach is once again deserted. The painting, though small, was many years in the making. Below are notes describing my process. Enjoy!

Technical painting notes:  Working up a painting from photos is seldom straightforward. There are the field trips, with dozens of photos taken from different angles and under various weather conditions, then the photoshopping of the images, playing with value changes and cropping, looking for the essential moment and a good abstract underpinning to the composition. The painting Slant Sun at Nauset is based on the photos below. First, the primary photo, taken because the bands of shadow and sun playing across the beach and dune reminded me of a Mark Rothko composition.

I cropped the photo, eliminating the fence above the dune, and accentuating the three bands – sky, dune, beach. 

A gray-scale photo emphasizes the values, and shows how important the sun glancing off the top of the dune is to the composition and meaning of the painting – which is now about the transitory nature of time and light, plus a reference to art history and abstraction in the service of a sense of realism. With this in mind, I began work on the painting. As you will note, I ultimately eliminated the figure and added a bit of water (not only have the people left the beach, but so has the tide, leaving behind a scant tidal pool). Even the sun is departing. I deepened the shadows and added more color to them (violet and blue), and enhanced the bright color of the sea grass stranded at the base of the dune (Final version of finished painting at top of post).