What I Found in the Woods

TM9687 What I Found in the Woods 36×42 oil on panel

Approaching the woods, it’s all about anticipation, wondering what I will find. Sometimes a lovely patch of mature woods, other times the tangled, exuberant growth and broken branches of edges, or the relics of past use. All are fabulous subjects for inspiration, an anchor point for starting a painting. In this case, the colors are wintery with notes of ochre, Mars violet, ultramarine blue, and burnt umber mixed or glazed to form warm/cool intersections. The dark, rolled base and textures show through subsequent layers, adding interest and depth. On another level, learning to follow my instincts and take advantage of the accidents and “mis-takes” gives me more confidence to follow the mysteries out there. More details below. Enjoy.

TM9687 What I Found in the Woods – detail showing use of scraping with infill (broad white bands), and narrow “drawn” lines done with edge of rubber roller
TM9687 What I Found in the Woods Today – detail from right of center with gestures of tangled branches. Walking the woods and overgrown fields in Massachusetts, one usually finds signs of previous use, like old stone walls, foundations, and more recent wooden fence posts.
TM9687 What I Found in the Woods – close-up
TM9687 What I Found in the Woods – detail from upper left side

Technical painting notes: With a bold and unexpected start my priority was keeping as much of the original layer as possible, while bringing in more hints of color and depth. I used translucent grays over colored glazes to soften and recede some areas. I pulled up some of the whites in the scraped parts to reinforce their prominence. I used a roller with various gray mixtures to push some areas further back, soften edges, and for the accidents that always happen. The edge of the roller is great for drawing fine lines.

First Freeze

TM9666 First Freeze 36×40 oil on panel

I look forward to the first freeze each year – that morning when sparkles set in and suddenly a new season is here. There are still enough leaves floating on the pond to create a tapestry of colors mixed into the frosty whites and grays. Summer’s fluidity is suddenly still, almost solemn, and feels so realistically abstract! Enjoy. Detail below.

TM9666 First Freeze – detail from center with dusting of snow on leaves that are frozen into the pond’s surface

Pondly Thoughts

TM9686 Pondly Thoughts 30×50 oil on panel

More experimenting with knife and roller – and moments of glee when something interesting happens. Working on this painting it sometimes felt like Uncle Claude was perched on my shoulder. Monet’s waterlily paintings, especially the late ones with their ropy paint, are related to “Pondly Thoughts”. I think Monet would have loved working with the roller, discovering more ways to layer. We certainly share an affinity with water and its mutability. Monet had his garden and pond, I have my swamp. Two artists happy as larks. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9686 Pondly Thoughts – detail from upper right with overhanging branches
TM9686 Pondly Thoughts – detail from upper left
TM9686 Pondly Thoughts – detail from upper right
TM9686 Pondly Thoughts – detail from lower left half
TM9686 Pondly Thoughts – detail from lower left center
TM9686 Pondly Thoughts – detail from lower right center

Technical painting notes: I started with a rolled dark layer, working toward the light in successive brushed and rolled layers. Glazes modelled the color. I used brushwork to define some of the negative, light areas, then rolled them to soften the edges and spread the color. Knife work focused the leaves, which were overpainted and rolled to create mysterious shapes under the over-rolled surface. A little spatter, some scraping, more glazing, etc. Eventually it seemed to reach a balance that spoke to describing the pond and its environment while keeping to my new motto of interesting paint!

Meditation on Poetry and Motion

TM9685 Meditation on Poetry and Motion 30×54 oil on panel

Listening to the rustle of leaves, watching the reflections shift across the surface of the water, sometimes it feels like I’ve walked into a poem, as though the colors were words holding the full spectrum of possible description. Time stretches. I feel myself disappearing………. Enjoy.

TM9685 Meditation on Poetry and Motion – detail from upper left
TM9685 Meditation on Poetry and Motion – detail from center left
TM9685 Meditation on Poetry and Motion – detail from lower left
TM9685 Meditation on Poetry and Motion – detail from right side

Buckthorn City

TM9684 Buckthorn City 30×36 oil on panel

This week I made the formal acquaintance of my nemesis – Common Buckthorn. I encounter it in the wild, and invading people’s yards. It’s one tough tree/shrub that manages to live almost everywhere, forming dense, impenetrable tangles that block my way. I understand goats can eat their way into it. Bravo Goats! I can’t help but admire its toughness, even in the more dormant November form it is a challenging, linear subject that appeals to me. And I also hate it. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9684 Buckthorn City – detail from upper left
TM9684 Buckthorn City – detail from left side
TM9684 Buckthorn City – detail from right side

Technical painting notes: This view of tangling Buckthorn by a Beaver Pond was accomplished using mostly rollers of various sizes and harks back to my time spent doing woodcuts. I started with a bold lay up of very dark, reddish black paint to set the vertical gestures of trees, then played with scrapers, and smaller rollers to “draw” branches and viny growth. Something about the aggressive Buckthorn seemed to demand a more aggressive approach.

Sanctuary #5 – Drizzly October

TM9683 Sanctuary #5 – Drizzly October 36×40 oil on panel

I’ve been playing with my woods lately, experimenting with layering more textures and combining loose and controlled approaches to the work. Sanctuary #5 – Drizzly October has the bright colors of fall subdued by the rain, mists, and fog we’ve been experiencing lately. The atmospherics soften the effect of all the color and bring a sense of quiet and peaceful harmony to the whole. Once again, a little patch of woods delivers all the inspiration I need.

Technical painting notes: This painting went through quite a few changes during its development. It started with a monoprint approach, rolling dark oil paint onto the panel and working to set the major linear gestures with a lot of texture. Later work included glazing and brushwork to bring the subject into focus, as shown below:

TM9683 Sanctuary #5 – Drizzly October – showing progress after day 6

While I liked the way it was progressing, it seemed too direct, too obvious. I wanted to find poetic possibilities in October, not just the bright colors. On a whim, I mixed a semitransparent gray/beige color and tried rolling it over parts of the painting, I loved the way it exaggerated the 3-D effect of the impasto knifework. I also mixed a pale, semi-transparent gray/blue and started rolling that onto the painting. It started to feel like the fogginess I observed while driving to the studio, adding a sense of concealed mystery to the piece. Additional brushwork to refine the negative space, more tree limbs and scrub, and the addition of many more super fine stems and branches (dark and light) added more depth. details below.

TM9683 Sanctuary #5 – Drizzly October – detail from upper center showing layered semi-transparent paint application with rollers
TM9683 Sanctuary #5 – Drizzly October – detail from center top edge showing use of palette knife, brushwork, roller, spatter, and scraping
TM9683 Sanctuary #5 – Drizzly October – detail from upper left
TM9683 Sanctuary #5 – Drizzly October – detail from upper right

Sanctuary #4 – A Quiet Place

TM9682 Sanctuary #4 – A Quiet Place 36×40 oil on panel

In the woods – that could have been a motto for my childhood, whether I was exploring in the woods or wishing I could go. The infinite mysteries, the rich smells, the universe found under a rock or in a pond, the snapping turtles and horned pout, the wet feet – all of it! It’s still my go to place for solace, quiet, inspiration, and a place to think or just be. Enjoy.

P.S. Funny how a physical change (like cataract removal, with its attendant delight in seeing the details!!!!) can affect one’s approach to painting. I don’t know what the next painting will look like, but I certainly look forward to finding out.

Sanctuary #3 – Deep in the Woods

TM9681 Sanctuary #3 – Deep in the Woods 40×36 oil on panel

Sanctuary #3 is based on memories from granite quarries in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The rock walls and mysterious pools are wonderfully tactile, especially lovely when framed by Nature reclaiming its original wildness. I love walking among these relics of intervention, looking at the evidence of human-scaled labor replaced by the chaos of lush vegetation returning. There is a sense of history and the feeling that ghosts are watching me. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9681 Sanctuary #3 – Deep in the Woods – detail from center
TM9681 Sanctuary #3 – Deep in the Woods – detail from lower center showing monoprint textures suggestive of reflections
TM9681 Sanctuary #3 – Deep in the Woods – detail from upper left
TM9681 Sanctuary #3 – Deep in the Woods – detail from upper right