Song in a Pale Key

nc web TM8670 Song in a Pale Key 36x36 oil on panel

TM8670 Song in a Pale Key 36×36 oil on panel

So much of the sensory experience of being by the ocean is based on what we hear – fog horns, gulls, and the ever-changing music of the waves. Song in a Pale Key is about the subtleties, when the moist air absorbs and expands the sounds. The gentle movements of water can seem to energize the space between droplets of moisture, generating a background chord behind the  higher pitched liquid melody of waves overturning. It isn’t a dark sound. Instead, it seems light and evanescent, maybe because evaporation is its conclusion. I chose to keep the tonal and value key of the painting high, to emphasize the lightness of the music and its transient nature. The foggy, atmospheric distance speaks to the presence of droplets of moisture, which equates with notes in this artist’s imagination. Enjoy.

 

October Throws a Party

nc web TM8640 October Throws a Party 36x40 oil on panel

TM8640 October Throws a Party 36×40 oil on panel

There’s red and then there’s the red explosion also known as the month of October in New England. I have been swept up by autumn’s vibrancy and range of reds – each shade of coral and orange, all the warm, cool, dark and tonal in-betweens. October Throws a Party is a tribute to the color red and to the season.

As I worked on the painting, orchestrating the colors and layers, I also thought about piano roll music with its sequenced dashes corresponding to notes. Each dash of paint (or scraped negative dash) felt like part of a score, a way of grouping colors into chords, of building a rhythm into the visual experience of the painting. The cloe-up detail below shows the way glaze was applied then scraped away to “echo” the paint applied with strokes of the brush, contributing depth and surface interest to the image.

nc web TM8640 October Throws a Party - close-up showing transparent layers, scraping into wet glaze

TM8640 October Throws a Party – close-up showing transparent layers and scraping of wet glaze

 

Flutter Patterns

TM8561 Flutter Patterns 36x48 oil on panel

TM8561 Flutter Patterns 36×48 oil on panel

Each painting informs the next, so I bring you Flutter Patterns, another collaboration with Brian Eno. Flutter Patterns is based in part on photographs I took late last summer of leaves reflected in a quarry pond, fluttering in a breeze. It is also inspired and interpretive of a musical collaboration between Brian Eno and Harold Budd titled “Ambient 2 Plateaux of Mirror.” The music, composed for piano, has an ethereal fluttery sound, repetitive but always changing.  With fluttering leaves it is a perfect fit. The music has a bit more drama than “Neroli”, a related composition by Brian Eno alone, so I brought in more contrast and color. Details from the painting are below, with technical painting notes at the end. Enjoy.

TM8561 Flutter Ptterns - detail from center of right edge showing light on the water's surface, leaf and stem reflections, floating duckweed

TM8561 Flutter Ptterns – detail from center of right edge showing light on the water’s surface, leaf and stem reflections, floating duckweed

TM8561 Flutter Ptterns - detail from right side with mirrored leaves and duckweed on the water's surface

TM8561 Flutter Ptterns – detail from right side with mirrored leaves and duckweed on the water’s surface

TM8561 Flutter Ptterns - detail from center showing interwoven positive and negative shapes,  use of spatter to mute tones and control space

TM8561 Flutter Ptterns – detail from center showing interwoven positive and negative shapes, use of spatter to mute tones and control space

TM8561 Flutter Ptterns - detail from center of bottom edge

TM8561 Flutter Ptterns – detail from center of bottom edge

TM8561 Flutter Patterns - detail from center with reflected leaves and stems

TM8561 Flutter Patterns – detail from center with reflected leaves and stems

Technical painting notes: The painting began with a reddish brown oil color rolled loosely onto the primed panel. While wet, the paint was smeared with a plastic bag, then spritzed with solvent and blotted or re-rolled. This base layer created some interesting textures and tones. I let it dry. Glazes followed, into which I started to paint the leaves. I tried to vary the edges – hard v. soft. Some of the stem patterns were developed, and I decided to emphasize the diagonals of the leaves and contrast them with the suggested grid of stems and branches.  The negative sky shapes poking through were developed after the leaves had dried. Successive layers of variously colored spatter came next, both to unify the composition and to suggest dappled light (the size of the dot of spatter can be controlled by the size of the brush and the viscosity of the paint being used – I add Liquin to the mixed color and a touch of mineral spirits, then choose from a selection of very used, nylon watercolor brushes – a bigger splotch can be achieved with a natural bristle chip brush).

Remembering the reflections in the quarry, I wanted to imply layers – leaves overhanging the water as well as those of the slightly higher canopy. But I wanted the movement to dominate, the feel of flutter and repetition, of things appearing and disappearing before my eyes, the sense of lost and found echoes, much like in the music of “Plateaux of Mirror”.

Pondscape for Brian Eno

TM8560 Pondscape for Brian Eno 36x40 oil on panel

TM8560 Pondscape for Brian Eno 36×40 oil on panel

When I first listened to Brian Eno’s compact disk “Neroli,” I enjoyed the music, but wasn’t sure if it would be a disk to play repeatedly. It sat in the studio for a few months next to “Discreet Music” and Eno’s Harold Budd collaborations getting dusty. I finally gave it another chance in June, but this time I really listened, and began work on a painting that would be an interpretation of Neroli using themes from my pondscape series. I listened to Neroli, and only Neroli, for the entire time I was painting.  I let my brushstrokes match the tempo of the music. I looked for equivalents of tone and contrast, letting the undulations and whispers in the music inform the mark-making. As I worked, I thought of the illustration on the cd’s cover, a graphic mapping that reminded me of an illustration I had once seen of a piano roll composition and score. I began to think of the marks as notes, or intervals, to be layered into a chord of color. Using a silicone scraper, I scraped away the intermittent wet glaze layers to reveal subtleties in the paint below. The dashed scrapes were also timed with the music. You might say I became one with Neroli and the pond. It was a liberating experience. By painting with the music I discovered an unexpected layer of abstraction in the pondscape, and became addicted to Mr. Eno’s composition. Merci! Details below. Enjoy.

TM8560 Pondscpae for Brian Eno - detail with tree reflections from right side

TM8560 Pondscpae for Brian Eno – detail with tree reflections from right side – note the calm yet staccato layers of scraping and additive marks.

TM8560 Pondscape for Brian Eno - detail from lower left showing layered and spattering

TM8560 Pondscape for Brian Eno – detail from lower left showing layers and spattering

TM8560 Pondscape for Brian Eno - detail from right side showing more transparent layers and scraping. THe scrim on the pond's surface obscures the clarity of the reflections, muting the effect much as Eno's music softens the patterns of sound

TM8560 Pondscape for Brian Eno – detail from right side showing more transparent layers and scraping. THe scrim on the pond’s surface obscures the clarity of the reflections, muting the effect much as Eno’s music softens the patterns of sound

TM8560 Pondscape for Brian Eno - detail from left side showing crisper reflection from trees and sky

TM8560 Pondscape for Brian Eno – detail from left side showing crisper reflection from trees and sky

Brian Eno is an English composer, musician, singer, visual artist and record producer. His explorations of various styles of music, and pioneering work in ambient and generative music was in part inspired by minimalist paintings. His numerous cds are widely available. He is brilliant.

A Slice of the Pond

TM8545 A Slice of the Pond 24x50 oil on panel

TM8545 A Slice of the Pond 24×50 oil on panel

It almost slides past notice, but then you look again and hear it. Like a score for summer’s music, the pattern of lily pad ovals suddenly turns into notes on an implied staff. The sound is there if you listen – slight ripples interrupted by pops of air and the plops of frogs, the breeze bending grasses, the rustle of one sound overlaying another….but quietly. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8545 A Slice of the Pond - detail from top with lily pads and bladderwort

TM8545 A Slice of the Pond – detail from top with lily pads and bladderwort

TM8545 A Slice of the Pond - detail from right and below center

TM8545 A Slice of the Pond – detail from right and below center

TM8545 A SLice of the Pond - detail from lower edge with grasses and reflections

TM8545 A Slice of the Pond – detail from lower edge with grasses and reflections

Technical painting notes: This painting was begun quite a few months ago, with a roll-up of warm siennas and ochres. Then it sat. I was afraid to work on it because it had started so well. I didn’t want to lose the freshness, and yellows, which always scare me with their loudness and lack of tonal range, were going to be the basis of the palette. Yipes! But living in fear of a flat piece of wood isn’t exactly an option either, so I dove into the process with glazes and a couple of new brushes for luck. The ripple patterns weren’t originally so present, but the length of the composition required their emphasis. I went with the warm sienna tones plus a touch of gray, green, and dusky red for subtle contrast. Playing with the grasses, I used calligraphic outlines on some for interest, and played around with the negative shapes to keep some variety. I’m not quite so afraid of yellow now.

Score to Accompany the Changing Season

TM8457 Score to Accompany the Changing Season 36x44 oil on panel

SOLD TM8457 Score to Accompany the Changing Season 36×44 oil on panel

Score to Accompany the Changing Season was slow to mature. I first began a version of this painting almost a year ago, and sanded it off the panel about a month later. Last summer I tried again, with the same results. Last month, with more experience, I started again.

The painting is an interpretation of the pond’s surface between summer and fall, but I held two additional images in mind as I painted. The first image/idea was tapestry – that the interweaving of layered vegetation on and in the pond was Nature’s rendition of the word tapestry. I was also influenced by seeing the score for a player piano – that long roll of intermittent cut dashes which, coded into a continuous horizontal “grid,” is the basis for mechanically playing music. I imagined a relationship between the small dashes of “notes” and the patterns of duckweed layered over and between leaves and lily pads. I felt that the pond was presenting a silent score for more than one instrument – a silent orchestration, perhaps.  Being familiar with the cd Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror by Howard Budd and Brian Eno, I imagined the painting/score as a continuously evolving play of overlapping marks and patterns. 

With all this in mind, and the cd on the stereo, I proceeded to build the layers of pattern, interweaving monoprint techniques, direct painting, and numerous layers of glaze. Finally the concept was clear enough in my head to actually finish the painting. Details are below. Enjoy!

TM8457 Score to Accompany the Changing Season - detail from left with leaves falling to water's surface

TM8457 Score to Accompany the Changing Season – detail from left with leaves falling to water’s surface

TM8457 Score to Accompany the Changing Season - detail from lower right with floating duckweed, leaves, and submerged lily pads

TM8457 Score to Accompany the Changing Season – detail from lower right with floating duckweed, leaves, and submerged lily pads

 

Scarlet’s Cousins

TM8372 Scarlet's Cousins 36x40 oil on panel

TM8372 Scarlet’s Cousins 36×40 oil on panel

I saw one scarlet leaf floating down the creek by my studio and I realized with a bang that the season of red is upon us. With that in mind, I went back to the studio and started a new painting based on that leaf and photos I took last fall at the pond.

I also decided to do an experiment. Most of my paintings lately have been painted while listening to two cd’s. The first is composer Morton Feldman’s wonderful suite of songs entitled Rothko’s Chapel. The other cd is devoted to Brian Eno’s experiments for three pianos entitled Ambient Sound 2, which particularly affected the mood in Pond Poem.

But fall and the color red both required something different, so I turned to Thelonious Monk, the great jazz composer and musician. The new painting, Scarlet’s Cousins, is the result of crossing one red leaf with Thelonious, and letting it all just happen. Same pond, different mood. The title, Scarlet’s Cousins, is based on the color decisions I made while working on the painting. In painting, every brushstroke of color effects and alters  our perception of nearby strokes. No color occurs in isolation. Every stroke sets up a relationship with colors occurring throughout the painting.  The golden yellow and orange scarlet passages in the painting couldn’t achieve balance without some reference to the cooler side of the color wheel. I usually use variations on blue, but that color was too bold and would have brought too much attention to itself, so I used cool pinks and violet glazes instead. Additionally, violet-glazed greens and blue-gray glazes gave hints of coolness to this primarily warm, sunny autumn view.

So why Scarlet’s Cousin’s? Because every color is part of a family of colors, and this painting is all about the colors that support scarlet.

TM8372 Scarlet's Cousins (detail showing lily, layered reflections, floating leaves)

TM8372 Scarlet’s Cousins (detail showing lily, layered reflections, floating leaves)

TM8372 Scarlet's Cousins (detail from right side of reflections)

TM8372 Scarlet’s Cousins (detail from right side of reflections)

TM8372 Scarlet's Cousins (detail from foreground, showing layered reflections and floating leaves)

TM8372 Scarlet’s Cousins (detail from foreground, showing layered reflections and floating leaves)