Deepest Summer

TM8438 Deepest Summer 36x36 oil on panel

TM8438 Deepest Summer 36×36 oil on panel

Rainer Maria Rilke, the German poet, once said, “Praising is what matters…” Painting is a form of praise, for how else to describe years of intense looking followed by weeks of learning to see what one has seen. And then to learn a way to interpret that vision into paint, while learning to see the paint for what it really is. The artist returns to a site to look again, look more deeply. Perhaps the pond series is a group of praise poems (or prayers), whereby I am silenced into color – filled with the wonder of seeing anew the depths of my little pond.

W.S. Merwin, the American poet, wrote a wonderful short poem titled “Travelling Together,” which can be found in his book “The Rain in the Trees” published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1997.

Travelling Together

If we are separated I will

try to wait for you

on your side of things

your side of the wall and the water

and of the light moving at its own speed

even on leaves that we have seen

I will wait on one side

while a side is there

The painting Deepest Summer is certainly about looking, and waiting, and looking some more. It is the sum of paintings that have come before, and a glimpse toward paintings that might be. Informed by a specific site at Hamlen Woods in Wayland, it is one of three interpretive paintings based on a summer day and a few photographs I took last summer. Variations on a theme – otherwise known as try, try again. Drifting into Summer and The Afternoon Deepens are the earlier paintings. Close-ups of Deepest Summer and technical paintings notes below:

TM8438 Deepest Summer - detail from lower left of center showing layeres textures and surface of floating leaves

TM8438 Deepest Summer – detail from lower left of center showing layers, textures, and surface of floating leaves

TM8438 Deepest Summer- detail from lower right of center

TM8438 Deepest Summer- detail from lower right of center

TM8438 Deepest Summer - detail from lower center

TM8438 Deepest Summer – detail from lower center

Technical painting notes: Painted on birch veneered plywood with an alkyd priming. The painting was developed in stages, but with one difference from my usual method. I rolled on a layer of greenish oil paint using a soft rubber brayer, then smooshed it around with a piece of plastic wrap and a mixture of linseed oil and mineral spirits. I them splashed it with the mineral spirits and watched the droplets enlarge. While they were still wet, I rerolled the brayer across the surface selectively, softening the effect of the splashes, and then resplashed the surface blotting with a paper towel.  I used a silicone scraper to remove paint (and suggest stuff floating on the water). When everything was dry, I resumed my usual approach with layered transparent glazes alternating with more opaquely painted details. A soft rubber brayer makes many things possible!

Tempus Fugit #2

Sometimes the muse is kind. You have an idea for something, when suddenly, after much work, the subject veers off in a new direction and the only thing you can do is follow. The experience is scary and thrilling.

And, if all goes well, you actually find the place toward which the muse was pointing. Stranger still is finding that another artist has been there before you, only he painted it with words. Such is the case with Tempus Fugit #2. The poet W.S. Merwin wrote a poem titled To the Gift of Sight, which I found in his book of poems titled Present Company, published by Copper Canyon Press. It’s an extraordinary poem about time, illusion, and the layers of life and meaning that sometimes emerge, in layers, from below the surface of the water. I’d like to share the poem with you, and urge you to look up this wonderful poet for your own reading pleasure and inspiration.

TM8357 Tempus Fugit #2 36x36 oil on panel

TM8357 Tempus Fugit #2 36×36 oil on panel

To the Gift of Sight

What has happened to my eyes
I ask the distances
these days when the light is here
disclosing the late pages
the first leaves of spring
the gray river again
holding the still sky
that shines through it
down in the valley

it is not long ago
that I believed what I saw
without a shadow of a doubt
clear contours letters
sharp figures standing for
themselves in my eyes

yet I could see then
how the time kept hiding
moments behind themselves
one after the other
a day at a time
behind the present
and the years were seen only through
each other wit their outlines
melting into each other
until they were no longer
immediate or distinct

now those seasons and meanings
inside each other
as one cast a floating
penumbra around themselves
they wear a veil in the light
that makes me prize the glimpse
of them I have
the naked skin of the world
whatever of it can be seen

it uncurls in the cold light
and faces surface
and folded wings
in the water of morning

Below are two details from my painting.

TM8357 Tempus Fugit #2 - detail from upper right

TM8357 Tempus Fugit #2 – detail from upper right

TM8357 Tempus Fugit #2 - detail from lower left

TM8357 Tempus Fugit #2 – detail from lower left