Midsummer Garden

TM9410 Midsummer Garden 36×60 oil on panel

Midsummer Garden is a homage to the wonderful garden our neighbor, Mrs. Kroll, tended. The garden ran along a massive stone wall that separated the Kroll’s house from their dairy barn. Unlike our flower gardens, which featured marigolds, snapdragons, phlox, zinnias, and cosmos, the Kroll garden was filled with huge, sumptuous (and to me exotic) flowers such as gladioli, massive dahlias, and sunflowers. All the neighborhood kids raided Mrs. Kroll’s compost heap regularly, looking for blossoms fresh enough to bring home to the moms. Mrs. Kroll never interfered with our foraging. I like to think she was smiling from her window. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9410 Midsummer Garden – detail from top with hard-edged blue sky
TM9410 Midsummer Garden – detail from lower right showing use of brush and rollers
TM9410 Midsummer Garden – detail from right of center
TM9410 Midsummer Garden – detail showing use of various roller widths to draw contours and forms

Technical painting notes: I used primarily soft rubber rollers to work up this painting, beginning with a dark layer that blocked in some of the primary shapes. Brushes were used selectively to refine a shape or line. At times, I used the edge of the roller to draw fine contour lines. My goal was to capture the essence of the subject while maintaining the freedom to interweave line and overlapping shapes expressively.

Slow Drift

TM9629 Slow Drift 30×50 oil on panel

What compels me to keep visiting Hamlen Woods? I think it is the nearly hypnotic trance I fall into as I walk the perimeters of the creeks and ponds, all linked and providing rich habitats. I become hyper aware of sounds, color, and especially the way time seems to slow down as I watch leaves float and spin on the currents, or the way pine needles hover on the surface, collect, and then disappear. Maybe it’s the way silently observing the pond takes me completely out of myself, as if I weren’t there. Or maybe it’s getting to know the place so well that every tree limb, lily, and frog feels like an old friend. I just love it. Details from Slow Drift below. Enjoy.

TM9629 Slow Drift – detail from center
TM9629 Slow Drift – detail from right side with reflections and floating pine needles

Chilling with the Birds

TM9628 Chilling with the Birds 24×72 oil on panels diptych (click on image to enlarge)

Trees in full color, blown by the wind, hosting multitudinous birds in concert – sometimes it can be gloriously deafening. I’m always in awe of these impromptu flash mobs of sound. Chilling with the Birds is my homage to these special events. It began with the idea of showing a bird’s eye view through the boughs, but then I got caught in one of those flash mob concerts while walking to the grocery store, and I knew there had to be some way to express the excitement I felt and heard. I think it was unconscious, letting the caligraphic descriptions of leaves morph into bird shapes too. However it came into being, it is still full of surprises for me, and suggests the wall of sound and energy I felt. Details below (and you can click on the diptych above to see it enlarged). Enjoy.

TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail from upper left corner
TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail from upper edge
TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail
TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail from lower right
TM9628 Chilling with the Birds – detail from center

Technical painting notes: The initial thinned oil colors rolled onto the panel were dark blackish browns, siennas, and a touch of dark green. While the paints were wet, I manipulated them with rags, scrapers, and spritzes of solvent, defining shapes and drawing in the major lines with narrow rollers or silicone scrapers. I wanted to capture the basic values and get lots of textures in this first day of work. Once the paint was dry, I brushed on glazes and began developing the shapes of the leaves. This continued for a few days, and while it was descriptive, it didn’t have enough energy, or the feel of controlled chaos, that I experienced at the actual tree. I brought out my collection of rubber rollers and started over, employing dark thinned oil paints over the existing image. Lots of spritzes of mineral spirits and rerolling produced interesting colors and textures on the underlayer, richer effects, and much more energy. When the new layer was dry, I began working on the leaves and sky spaces again, using narrow rollers and brushwork to weave leaf-like calligraphy across the panels. I also more consciously widened the palette, so that there was more red on the left moving toward coral and various yellows on the right. The introduction of stronger blue sky and white cloud shapes contributed more energy and variety to the mood. Now, everything was in motion. As the piece dried, I began to see countless “bird” shapes overlapping the leaves. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, as I had joined the birds at the tree, they had now joined me in the studio.

A Quiet Meditation

(SOLD) TM9627 A Quiet Meditation 36×44 oil on panel

Late fall, colors are muted, the pond is slowly clearing as leaves sink. A time for reflection, for thinking about the year past, what it meant, and what I might be able to do next. Details below.

TM9627 A Quiet Meditation – detail from upper center
TM9627 A Quiet Meditation – detail from lower right side

An Early Snow

TM9626 An Early Snow 7×7 oil on paper

While terrible for the trees, an early snowfall is gorgeous to see and enjoy. The stark whites and blues intermixed with the last foliage broadens the palette. It’s like the best of winter and summer combined. Of course it also means many limbs will come crashing down, to be turned into strong diagonals in the next paintings. All part of why I love working with landscape. Enjoy!

Taking the Other Path

TM9625 Taking the Other Path 7×7 oil on paper

Every day brings changes. This new view of a familiar winter creek after snow is more frozen than previously. I definitely felt the cold in my bones this time. But, as always, it was worth the discomfort. That being said, next time I’ll add another layer. Enjoy.

Path into the Woods

TM96324 Path into the Woods 7×7 oil on paper

:This study of an alternate path through the woods on a snowy day is full of the sunshine that is so dear in January. There are so many trails in these woods. I can’t help but think of Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken:

“………And I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Over the years, I’ve walked many of the trails, and I am still finding more. Best is when I get off the trail, keeping the position of the sun in mind, and start exploring. I call it tromping the swamps. In winter, the abstract patterns of ice and frost collecting around clumps of grasses is so visually exciting. It was the inspiration of my large painting The Winter Pond. I look forward to working with the subject again when the temperature drops. In the meantime, I’ll try a few new trails…….Enjoy.

Scarlet Leaves (in progress)

Diptych Scarlet Leaves leaning against the studio wall to dry after first day of work.

Today I started work on a diptych to be titled Scarlet Leaves. I set up two tables to hold the panels, then worked with dark oil paints to establish primary forms and rhythms. I used burnt umber and black mixed with Liquin Impasto medium to speed drying. A mix of mineral spirits and stand oil loosened the paint so I could push it around. It was also used to thin the paint for spatter, then rerolling. creating textures, soft edges, and interesting accidents. it will take a few days for the surface to dry enough for the next layer of work. At this point, I have an idea of where I want the image to go, based on observations in the woods. The interesting part will be keeping the feel of what I saw, but allowing the accidents and interesting mishaps to inform the final result, bringing a sense of chance and the unexpected (which is also a part of being in the woods) to the final painting.