Walking the path around the pond almost daily allows one to appreciate the small (and large) changes over time. This year the bullfrogs are thriving, croaking their little hearts out to each other in a playful syncopated chorus. Meanwhile, the smaller frogs are finding more felled trees along the water’s edge. They are taking advantage of the new habitat options, sunning themselves on the branches that skim the pond – at least until they feel my footsteps and they plop! plop! plop! back into the water. It pains me to see so many mature trees succumbing to the fierce storms we’ve had this past year, but at least here at the pond the newly renovated habitat has helped some of my little friends.
Distance can be good. I painted Hydrangeas on a sunny morning a few years ago, and for some reason kept it at the studio. I found it again when I was recently reorganizing, and decided it needed more life. The painting was satisfactory but lacked a sense of the life spirit of the hydrangeas – how they felt. Back on the easel. The newer version, retitled Notes from the Garden: Happy Hydrangeas, feels more real somehow. These hydrangeas are really saying Good Morning to me, and evoking my reaction of Good Morning to you too! Details below, along with the earlier version of the painting. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: When I decided to rework the painting, I started by rolling and smudging brighter blues in the sky, then rolled semi-transparent grays and green into the flowers to create more interesting surface textures, (and to obliterate my idea of what the hydrangeas looked like). With the new surface, I went back to developing the lights and contrasts in the flower heads, rolling then adding details alternately. With the flowers becoming mor interesting, I acted similarly with the leaves, using small rollers alternating with brush work. I wanted to catch a sense of abandon, the way air circulates through the plant and the plant dances with that breeze.
Flowers have personalities. Daisies seem hopeful and full of humility. Roses are elegant and, especially the famous ones, seem rarified and even haughty. But the peony is just as gorgeous, sometimes even more fragrant, but also more casual. They seem careless, tossing those blossoms casually in the breeze, even leaning through their fencing to say good morning and offer a sniff to anyone who chances to pass by. I love them. Details below. Enjoy.
My dog Boo and I take copious walks around our neighborhood, but one of our most favorite is the walk to the Victory Gardens. Established during the Second World War, the gardens were created to help feed the population during wartime. Now, run by local volunteers, the gardens are still thriving with many more flowers and perennials, along with herbs and vegetables. There are demonstration plots for teaching purposes and a handicap-accessible garden with growing beds on higher benches. Boo knows where to find his friends with water bowls and treats, I know where to find choice opportunities for painting subjects and a chat with friends. Details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I used Speedball soft rubber rollers to apply the first blocking-in of forms and colors, switched to soft brushes to develop details, then went back to rollers and mostly transparent pigments to finish the painting. Going back and forth between roller and brush introduces some chance effects that work well to suggest movement and the feel of air moving around the subject. Below is a photo showing the result of the first day’s work.
As I worked on the painting, I found the need to add a hint of the chicken wire fence behind the clematis. The geometric linework contrasted in a subtle way with the organic shapes. One of the things I love about the Victory Gardens is the way everything overlaps, due to the tight quarters.
Each day, the trees are getting greener, as is the pollen film on the pond! My pondly mirror is interrupted by slender bladderworts in the shallows – slender stems carrying hooded yellow flowers. The flowers are so small they almost disappear in the reflections. After missing them for years, I now know where to look, and enjoy their emergence with the warmer weather. Add a blue sky and passing cloud, and it turns into a moment of simple joy. Details below.
Technical painting notes: The painting was “blocked in” with thin, dark, greenish brown oil paint applied with a soft rubber roller. I let the roller skip across the surface to create a broken, interrupted pattern. Spritzing the wet paint with solvent, and re-rolling the surface added more textures, while scrapers were used to indicate some of the branches. Once the first layer was dry, I glazed the painting with shades of blue and green, then started working wet into wet with a brush and broken strokes to suggest the foliage and reflected sky. I used the roller again to lay on thin, mostly transparent blues, then used spatter to suggest pollen. A very narrow roller detailed branches quickly, and provided a diversity of “marks” to keep the painting interesting.
I walk the woods so regularly I feel I have dear friends among the trees. I’ve known and painted so many of them. Hornbeams are definitely among my favorites. Also known as ironwood, they are incredibly dense. Also slow growing. Perhaps most distinctive about them is the way they hold on to their leaves all winter and into the spring. Pale, papery, dancing leaves stand out in the winter woods, the light sienna tinged color made more striking against so much blue and white. Even in spring, when signs of green are returning, the hornbeams stand out. Eventually they will shed their old leaves for new, and for a short while be camouflaged in their neighborhood. My view of hornbeam saplings on a foggy day in early spring salutes their grace. Details below. Enjoy.
One never knows how a painting will evolve. The inspiration for this painting came while I was sitting in a parking lot during a sudden spring shower and looking out through a drippy windshield. I liked it so much I started photographing through the windshield. The blurry effect of the gray tones and springy yellow greens really sang. Later, in the studio, I painted No Rain Yet, which you can see below.
No Rain Yet eventually went to a gallery just before the pandemic started. Nearly three years later, I asked for it to be returned – I loved the painting, but with three more years of experience I could see a way to bring the painting farther. The gallery graciously said fine. Looking, I began to see garden forms and a way to bring in some detail and more depth. What fun. I retitled the painting Notes from the Garden – No Rain Yet to honor the original and the new. Details below. Enjoy.
My pond and ice studies from last winter continue to inspire larger works, and the newest is Pond Edge, Early December. It’s a tight view watching ice encroach on the shallows. Oak leaves are visible under the surface, as well as the reflection of blue sky and clouds. The upper half of the painting is thin ice with a hint of what’s below. The abstractness of this close, vertical view is what intrigued me – the possibility of realism colliding with abstract expressionism. Plus, the sheer beauty of winter and its mysteries. Details below. Enjoy.