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

Ode to a November Pond

TM9658 Ode to a November Pond 36×40 oil on panel

November is a dark month at my pond. Everything goes silent, the days shorten, and films of ice form and reform on the water, obscuring and blurring both reflections and the mysterious shapes beneath the surface. I love the quiet colors of November and the mood of introspection. Even the pond seems to be looking within. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9658 Ode to a November Pond – detail from upper edge
TM9658 Ode to a November Pond – detail from lower edge

Technical painting notes: The painting is based on sketches and photographs from the site, but once the painting was underway, I let my intuition and memory lead. The accidental dark shapes and textures on the base layer (achieved using monoprint techniques) were so interesting I decided not to bury them under leaves. The pond revealed itself through the process of painting – who am I to interfere?

Frozen

TM9655 Frozen 30×36 oil on panel

The rapid cycling last winter between frigid temperatures and thaws produced incredible patterns on the pond. I did many photographic and oil studies of the ice as it melted and reformed, embracing and embedding leaves in its surface. The results are both terribly abstract and exactingly realistic – a hybrid condition that I love. The painting was constructed using many techniques, starting with monoprint-based rolls of thin, dark paint which were spritzed with solvents, re-rolled, scratched and wiped into, then glazed. I was looking for a few bold, dark shapes that would anchor the composition – dark enough to glow through the later layers of transparent ice. The base layer also set the ground of textures. Details suggesting leaves were developed with soft brushes; additional glazes introduced more color. While the paint was wet, I used a roller loaded with transparent soft grays, off whites, and blues to subdue the detail and suggest the ice layers. A few final edges were delineated with more brushwork, layered spatter, then more rolls. The process was partly intuitive, partly based on myriad photos and studies. In many ways, the painting has a strong kinship with pattern painting. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9655 Frozen – detail from center bottom
TM9655 Detail showing ice forming at center
TM9655 Frozen – detail from lower right side

Winter Morning after a Storm

TM9636 Winter Morning after a Storm 7×7 oil on paper

There’s always a reward for going a little further into the woods. The rocky ledges buried under snow but catching the strong sun form a wonderful composition, and the funny thing is they don’t really exist. A loose gesture with the palette knife accidentally “painted” the substructure. I liked what I saw and incorporated it into the final scene. It could be from Purgatory Chasm, and I guess in a way it is based on my knowledge of those crazy rock forms. Enjoy. Maybe I’ll check out Purgatory tomorrow……..

Early Winter at the Pond

TM9630 Early Winter at the Pond 36×36 oil on panel

Climate change. The words are in the news all the time, like a background hum, or a mosquito whine you can’t avoid. When I visit the pond, evidence is everywhere, whether in an arctic blast or the 40 degree weather that follows a couple hours later. I see the trees downed by severe windstorms, the land flooded with late fall and early winter rains that usually aren’t. Despite the losses, I am still overwhelmed by the beauty nature shows me. With extreme temperature changes this winter, I have seen the pond freeze/thaw/freeze/thaw/freeze. So many forms of frozen ripple, crack, crumple. I think about how to portray the frozen lace in paint, how to sneak up on the glorious effects, how to make the process look effortless. Time and experimentation. Details below.

TM9630 Early Winter at the Pond – detail from top right with freezing ripples
TM9630 Early Winter at the Pond – detail from left of center with freezing water and subsurface vegetation
TM9630 Early Winter at the Pond – detail from bottom left with open water
TM9630 Early Winter at the Pond – detail from bottom right showing use of layered brush and roller marks

Technical painting notes: I started the painting with a roll-up of dark, thin oil paint establishing major values, then worked to define the clumps of grasses with a silicone scraper. When the underlayer was dry, I started to define the ripples and alternate this brushwork with glazes. A narrow roller was used build the thicket of marks that would become underwater vegetation. I used a wider rubber roller to glaze over and smudge the ripples, and to start laying in the larger bands of blue open water. Alternating brush and roller, I put details down then semi-buried them under rolled nearly transparent glazes to suggest the luminous ice forming around the grass clumps. Including a touch of olive green brought the colors into balance and serves as a reminder that what is frozen now will be green again.

An Early Snow

TM9626 An Early Snow 7×7 oil on paper

While terrible for the trees, an early snowfall is gorgeous to see and enjoy. The stark whites and blues intermixed with the last foliage broadens the palette. It’s like the best of winter and summer combined. Of course it also means many limbs will come crashing down, to be turned into strong diagonals in the next paintings. All part of why I love working with landscape. Enjoy!

Taking the Other Path

TM9625 Taking the Other Path 7×7 oil on paper

Every day brings changes. This new view of a familiar winter creek after snow is more frozen than previously. I definitely felt the cold in my bones this time. But, as always, it was worth the discomfort. That being said, next time I’ll add another layer. Enjoy.