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.

Path into the Woods

TM96324 Path into the Woods 7×7 oil on paper

:This study of an alternate path through the woods on a snowy day is full of the sunshine that is so dear in January. There are so many trails in these woods. I can’t help but think of Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken:

“………And I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Over the years, I’ve walked many of the trails, and I am still finding more. Best is when I get off the trail, keeping the position of the sun in mind, and start exploring. I call it tromping the swamps. In winter, the abstract patterns of ice and frost collecting around clumps of grasses is so visually exciting. It was the inspiration of my large painting The Winter Pond. I look forward to working with the subject again when the temperature drops. In the meantime, I’ll try a few new trails…….Enjoy.