In the Rain

nc web TM8703 In the Rain 34x40 oil on panel

TM8703 In the Rain 34×40 oil on panel

Paintings tell stories both metaphorically and literally. Subject matter is often, though not always, the easier read. The painting In the Rain reveals a  scene, the lilies are just starting to open and the grasses that grow along the pond edge are vying for space, pushing their slim blades up toward the light. Everything is about growth.

At the same time, the painting abounds in other messages. As much as the subjects of the poem are striving up, there are an equal number of forces pushing down. Grasses and lilies are nearly equal to their reflections in the water, creating long verticals that take the eye up and down. There is a strong contrast between the bright, haloed light of the lilies and the deep tone of the buds, creating a yin/yang relationship.

When I started the painting, I had in mind a blue sky day and the glory of spring. Then came a week of rain. Weather influences what I see as I drive to my studio – gray skies, dripping trees, mist, puddles. Under that influence, the painting began to shift. While I kept the blues, I softened them, added violets, made the lilies themselves the source of the light in the painting. I also felt the need to account for the beautiful melancholy that a spring rain brings. Colors show their depth more fully when the sun is hidden. The subject’s verticals in the painting seemed to need a corresponding verticality in the painting’s technique. Also, the painting was too finished – nature is full of movement and the painting wasn’t addressing that aspect.

I decided to throw aside all caution. I leaned the painting against a table with newspapers on the floor, and started flinging thinned paint from a brush near the top of the painting, hoping the drips would travel down enough to suggest rain and  reinforce the verticals in the composition. I also wanted the energy of the flung paint to liven the energy in the painting. Spring is certainly about energy!  I mixed various dilute batches of color and played with the amount of mineral spirits vs. alkyd medium in the paint, trying to find a solution that would have body, yet drip. Some of the thinner paint allowed for transparency as it flowed over the surface, while the thicker, more heavily pigmented solutions ran less but added a staccato rhythm which looked good next to the runnier drips.

As I worked, I realized I was adding both energy and a certain sadness. The yin/yang balance was echoed in the technique, as it should be. Themes of sadness mixed with joy, and the juxtaposition of striving  vs  letting go, were right in the paint. Metaphorically, the drips of “rain” also referenced tears, which deepened the whole context of the work. For isn’t sadness always twinned with joy?

Details below. Enjoy.

nc web TM8703 In the Rain  - detail from upper right with lily and bud

TM8703 In the Rain – detail from upper right with lily and bud

nc web TM8703 In the Rain - detail from left side

TM8703 In the Rain – detail lower left side

nc web TM8703 In the Rain - detail from upper left with reflections and floating leaves

TM8703 In the Rain – detail from upper left with reflections and floating leaves

nc web TM8703 In the Rain - detail from lower center with lilies and reflections, spattered dilute paint used to suggest rain

TM8703 In the Rain – detail from lower center with lilies and reflections, spattered dilute paint used to suggest rain (and tears)

 

Lily Pond

nc web TM8699 Lily Pond 18x30 oil on panel

TM8699 Lily Pond 18 x 30 oil on panel

The feeling of transience when one looks into the water surrounding  a lily is one subject of Lily Pond. I began it last winter, then set it aside because it was hard to remember the mood of summer when the pond was decidedly iced over. With the return of lily pads this week, and days of rain, I resumed work on the painting. The toned down palette shows the effect of overcast days, while the actual lilies were influenced by my hopeful feelings for spring and the way it can unfold so gently. Details below. Enjoy.

nc web TM8699 Lily Pond - close up of center lily

TM8699 Lily Pond – close-up of center lily

nc web TM8699 Lily Pond - detail from upper right with lily and reflection

TM8699 Lily Pond – detail from upper right with lily and reflection

nc web TM8699 Lily Pond - close-up from left side

TM8699 Lily Pond – close-up from left side

 

 

Autumn’s Lilies

TM8571 Autumn’s Lilies 24×48 oil on panel

Painting a lily in autumn is a totally different experience compared to painting a summer lily. Suddenly, the surrounding colors are full of energy. Bright coral, golden yellows, orange – like a festival. Knowing that this last burst of energy will soon disappear also brings a feeling of poignancy to the joy of splashing those great colors on the panel. I’ll immerse myself in the color while it lasts, then enjoy the subdued violets, grays, and rusty tones of November.  For now, party on! Details below, and do you see my fishy friends?

TM8571 Autumn’s Lilies – detail with fish

TM8571 Autumn’s Lilies – detail from left side

Watching Time – Autumn

TM8558 Watching Time - Autumn 30x60 oil on panel

TM8558 Watching Time – Autumn 30×60 oil on panel

Watching Time – Autumn is a summation of everything I love about the season and the place. I chose the long horizontal format because it immerses the viewer in the experience, and because the stretched format echoes the way I always want to stretch the season and make it last longer. I can never get enough of the glorious crimsons and russets, especially since the pond will all too soon be frozen over and inaccessible, dormant until spring. Details below. Enjoy!

TM8558 Watching Time - Autumn - detail from middle of left side with reflected trees and sky

TM8558 Watching Time – Autumn – detail from middle of left side with reflected trees and sky

TM8558 Watching Time - Autumn - detail from foreground with fallen leaves and lily pad

TM8558 Watching Time – Autumn – detail from foreground with fallen leaves and lily pad

TM8558 Watching Time - Autumn - detail from just above center showing floating leaves and reflections, spatter pattern in underlayer showing through, use of semi-transparent "washes"

TM8558 Watching Time – Autumn – detail from just above center showing floating leaves and reflections, spatter pattern in underlayer showing through, use of semi-transparent “washes”

 

In the Neighborhood

Update! In the Neighborhood has been travelling, and when it came back to my studio I had an opportunity to rethink it. I lightened the mood and added some details, among other things. The new version is a bit simpler and has some brighter color…..you can compare.

TM8557 In the Neighborhood 24×44 oil on panel

TM8557 In the Neighborhood 24×44 oil on panel

I read today that the lily is supposed to be my birth flower, well what do you know….now I feel justified in my fixations. That said, the 2015 parade of lily paintings has commenced. In the Neighborhood takes a side glance at two white lilies, one of which is just beginning to stretch its petals. The slanting reflections, numerous, half-submerged lily pads, and streaks of underwater lily stems set up a sense of dynamic movement. When you look more closely, two fish, heading upstream against the current, push into view. In the Neighborhood explores the entire environment – trees and sky above, fish and vegetation below, and the almost ethereal transience of the flowers floating on the surface. Details below. Enjoy.

Technical painting notes: In the Neighborhood began with a dark blue black roll-up of oil paint. I consciously left parts of the primed panel exposed, hoping for a dramatic chiaroscuro. I spritzed and dripped solvent on the wet paint, then pushed the small pools around with a piece of plastic bag. I also dipped the bag in oil and solvent then lightly skimmed it across the surace to create streaks. When the surface was dry a few days later, I glazed the color in, and defined the sky patterns with pale blues.

The lily pads were defined by the lights around them, then developed further with greens. Duckweed helped to weave the patterns together and reinforced the plane of the water. Underwater stems provided a jolt of color. I spattered paint onto the water to imply pollen and dust. When this stage was dry, I reworked the reflections, sky, and vegetation again, balancing tones and continuing to weave together elements of the composition. The lilies appeared, and the first fish surfacing. More drying time and more glazing followed. A second fish demanded to visit the neighborhood. I said sure!

 

They Come First

TM8556 They Come First - 30x40 oil on panel

TM8556 They Come First – 30×40 oil on panel

Every spring it’s the same, those little yellow fists thrusting up out of the water, announcing that spring is here. The bullhead lilies aren’t elegant or seductive like their later cousins, but they are fabulous. Their stubborn, precocious personalities shout I’m here! They Come First celebrates their appearance with two bullheads sharing a secret, and a third stretching to find out what it’s all about. Detail below. Enjoy!

TM8556 They Come First - detail from center

TM8556 They Come First – detail from center

First Lily

TM8554 Frist Lily 35x54 oil on panel

TM8554 Frist Lily 36×54 oil on panel

I’ve been watching the lily pads rise, grow bigger, then seem to stall, their overlapping shapes a taunt, as if saying not yet, not yet, but my anticipation is so strong it brought forth this painted lily. The opening flower, slightly reflected in its watery world, seems so calm. Of course it doesn’t know it’s the first . Maybe it’s aware of the drifting leaves around it. Maybe its underwater stem feels the fish swimming past, the drizzle in the air. I think so. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8554 First Lily - detail with opening flower

TM8554 First Lily – detail with opening flower

TM8554 First Lily - detail from left side with tree and sky reflections, floating leaves, and duckweed

TM8554 First Lily – detail from left side with tree and sky reflections, floating leaves, and duckweed

TM8554 First Lily - detail from lower right

TM8554 First Lily – detail from lower right