This is how I’d like to start every morning – a sunshine-filled lily looking at me as if to say wake up! My yellow friend inhabits a world filled with floating and submerged lily pads, duckweed, scattered leaves, and hints of the growth below the water’s surface (not to mention a few fish and frogs).The implied geometry of reflections in the water (light and dark verticals) provides a sense of structure underlying the composition. Details below. Enjoy!
Every wave painting is a conversation between the ocean and the fringes of terra firma. The unique peculiarities of geography and weather set the tone, while the waves’ forms provide an endless series of variations on a theme. As an artist, my goal is to keep a fresh eye and look for new ways to interpret what I see. This post introduces two new paintings – The Backrush and Each to Its Own Place Returns. When seen with The Restless Sea (my last post) they provide three variations that are related yet distinct.
The Backrush, which is the largest at 30×50, has a sense of grandeur and inevitability, which is gained primarily through its larger size, strong horizontals, and gently sweeping arcs. The movement in the water is hypnotic, and seems to stretch time.
Each to Its Own Place has a slightly greener palette and feels more turbulent, in part because the foreground water is more chaotically filled with small crashing peaks of water, and also because the sky and horizon show evidence of a storm that has passed.
For purposes of comparison, I have included The Restless Sea below. You will note that the palette is grayer and lighter, and there is considerable foam and turbulence in the water. This is the sea after a noteworthy storm. Enjoy!
Technical painting notes: All three paintings were begun using monoprint techniques - rolling paint onto the panels with a soft rubber brayer, then using cut up plastic bags to manipulate the paint. Mineral spirits were used to splash and re-roll areas to create more of a feel of movement in the water. I also let the striations caused by the movement of plastic wrap across the surface become part of the structure of the waves, and also let the striations inform the movement of water in front of the wave. Some spattering between layered glazes helped to define both color and movement.
After a year devoted to exploring new painting techniques, I’ve decided to revisit some favorite coastal subjects but with a new approach. The Restless Sea, a familiar theme in many previous paintings, was begun using monoprint techniques. Thin paint layers were rolled onto the panel then manipulated in much the same way I approached the pondscape paintings. I wanted a sense of energy and more substance to the feel of the water. I also wanted to take advantage of the more accidental effects that are so much a part of the monoprint process. It was thrilling to watch the wave develop. I kept the colors grayed down and subtle so that the energy came from the movement of the water and not conflicting or loud colors. The result is a high energy painting that still has a calming presence. Details below. Enjoy!
When I first started visiting the pond, I was entranced by the levels of abstraction I saw. First, there was the obvious pattern of light and shade on the pond’s surface, then there was the patterning of the reflections which encoded a familiar yet mysterious world, and finally the layers of pattern represented by vegetation on the surface. Every painting since that first visit has been an interpretation of what I saw that first day. And I’m still trying to find a more perfect way to express my amazement. Spring Announces Her Intentions is one more interpretation of those basic three patterns, though this time from early in the season before duckweed overwhelms and lilies fill in the gaps. I wanted to capture the light coming through the mostly bare branches, and also find a way to suggest the layer of pollen on the pond and in the air. Fine spattering with an old nylon brush provided the pollen, and judicious glazing with a soft watercolor mop provided the light-filled air. Details below. Enjoy!
From the first time I visited the pond, the abstract effects of sunlight and shadow on the water’s surface have seemed magical. The striped, blue shadows from tree trunks, intersecting with the reflections of distant trees, sets up a skewed grid in two dimensions. Fallen leaves serve to reinforce both the sense of time and the flat plain of the pond’s surface, while breaks in the duckweed allow us to see some of the darker reaches under the surface. Ultimately, the painting is about transience – the passing of time, weather, seasons, and our own thoughts. Detail below. Enjoy!
The return of light and sun signals spring – that too transient time of year when life bursts through and the outdoors beckons. At my pond in the woods, spring means sunlight sifting through the branches and dappling the water’s surface. The shadows are still quite long, and the beginnings of duckweed and pollen are creating their own intricate mosaic patterns. If only I could “borrow” another month of this joyful season. Since I can’t, I pretend, and this week I put myself squarely into spring with the painting Let the Moments Last. I incorporated early spring, with its profusive light through the somewhat bare trees, and a couple of weeks later, showing the return of green and growth. In a painting, you can slide time. Details are below. Enjoy!
Technical painting notes: I started this painting by rolling on colors, as with all my recent paintings. But I’ve been experimenting more with spatter – thinning the paint and carefully directing the spatter to suggest pollen, dust, young duckweed, etc. I use Liquin in the paint mixture to speed the drying, plus a touch of mineral spirits. I use old nylon watercolor brushes for a fine spray, tapping the handle against either my hand or another brush. For bigger drips, I use looser paint. For much bigger drips with slightly less control, I use an old chip brush (especially useful on the first layer, when I’m trying to get a lot done over the whole panel before the paint tacks up). Using a few mixed colors, never one, gives a more natural effect. Nature never repeats itself. With practice, an old paint brush can be more effective than airbrushing.
There is no line between realism and abstraction – rather, there is a continuum in the way we perceive. Up close, the detail is real, but sometimes when we back away, the layered patterns dominate and the abstract impression is what we see – think of Claude Monet’s water-lily paintings. At other times, the opposite is true. The closer we look, the more abstract the image, as in some of Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers. Exploring perception is just one aspect of being an artist. The other is finding magic in that which is easily overlooked. Spring Redeems is based on an early spring walk, when last year’s leaves are mostly hidden under water, yet bare branches allow abundant light to tickle the pond’s surface. Patterns of sunlight and shade, competing reflections – how I love the delights of complexity. Details below. Enjoy!
Technical painting notes: I started this painting rolling on dark green, olive, and violet/burnt sienna tones in a loose manner, then used my usual solvent/oil mixture to disturb and streak the paint. Some scraping helped to define the tree trunks and limbs. When the underlayer was dry, I used mostly soft watercolor wash brushes to layer glazes of color that defined sky vs. vegetation. I also layered varicolored paint spatters to keep the surface interesting and to suggest pollen, dust, and baby duckweed. I directly painted the floating leaves, and used small dashed strokes to imply the incipient mat of vegetation that was beginning to develop – especially my old friend duckweed. Additional layers of glaze unified the colors. Pale blue glazes suggested a skim of shallow water over the underwater leaves. Blue violet glazes enhanced the feel of shadows across the pond’s surface.