Meditation on a Looking Glass

TM8510 Meditation on a  Looking Glass 30x60 oil on panel

TM8510 Meditation on a Looking Glass 30×60 oil on panel

What is the draw of looking at reflections in the water? Is it trying to compare what’s above the water line with the seemingly similar image on the water’s surface? Or is it the inconsistencies that begin to emerge the longer you look? Where is that color or form coming from? Are the distortions from a breeze, or a fish under the water? The longer you look, the more fanciful it all becomes, until you start to realize that you are Alice, entering a strange world with an insignificant map and no sense of direction. Everything is possible. Every maybe can be answered with a yes! Now the fun begins……

Meditation on a Looking Glass might be the culmination of my years of looking at the pond, or it might be the beginning of the real series. Like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, I’m being forced to reconsider what is real and what is my imagination, and where the two can happily co-exist. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8510 Meditation on a Looking Glass - detail from lower center

TM8510 Meditation on a Looking Glass – detail from lower center

TM8510 Meditation on a Looking Glass - detail from center showing reflected sky and trees (also showing use of scraping into wet paint, monoprint techniques, re-rolling of drips and spatters)

TM8510 Meditation on a Looking Glass – detail from center showing reflected sky and trees (also showing use of scraping into wet paint, monoprint techniques, re-rolling of drips and spatters)

TM8510 Meditation on a Looking glass - detail from right of center top

TM8510 Meditation on a Looking glass – detail from right of center top

TM8510 Meditation on a Looking Glass - detail from lower left with ripples and reflected trees

TM8510 Meditation on a Looking Glass – detail from lower left with ripples and reflected trees

Technical painting notes: I’ve been using my soft rubber roller to re-roll over wet passages of paint in the first layer. This softens the edges of the drips and marks, and can create more subtle afterimages. Multiple glazes, and working with only watercolor brushes, results in an enamel-like finish.

 

Late Summer at the Pond

TM8509 Late Summer at the Pond 30x54 oil on panel

TM8509 Late Summer at the Pond 30×54 oil on panel

The rain has stopped; the air is filled with drips and the incipient return of splashing frogs and bird song. In this painting, I wanted to show the facts and the mystery of life at the pond, as well as pay homage to one of my early mentors, Jean Baptiste Camille Corot. And if you can hear me, thank you, kind master. Details from the painting are below. Enjoy.

TM8509 Late Summer at the Pond - detail

TM8509 Late Summer at the Pond – detail

TM8509 Late Summer at the Pond - detail from far bank, left side

TM8509 Late Summer at the Pond – detail from far bank, left side

TM8509 Late Summer at the Pond - close-up of far bank, right side

TM8509 Late Summer at the Pond – close-up of far bank, right side, including foreground lilies

 

Slipping into Fall

TM8508 Slipping into Fall 36x48 oil on panel

TM8508 Slipping into Fall 36×48 oil on panel

Slipping and falling – otherwise known as transition and possibilities. The question is what happens along the way. This season of transition as we edge toward winter has me thinking about those two gerunds. Every walk around the pond gives evidence of more falling leaves, and the golden light of late afternoon is followed by more deeply embracing blues and shades of indigo. It’s a time that shares some of the best of summer and winter. Fresh food still coming from local farms and gardens, flowers, and the return of denim and corduroy. All these thoughts found their way into Slipping into Fall – the leaves scattering on the pond’s surface, the  golden light on the far trees (reflected), the evening’s indigo shadows creeping in, and the ripples in the water, like fine wales in corduroy. Even a few reddish tones where the lily pads and surface vegetation are putting on fall colors.

For a painter, every season brings a new palette and different sensibilities to the process of making art. Even the change of temperature in the studio (cooler temperatures mean the paint will dry more slowly) allows for more “open” time in which to manipulate the paint. It becomes easier to start large paintings. Slipping into Fall is one of many larger paintings I have planned for this season of increasing possibilities. Details from the painting are below. Enjoy.

TM8508 Slipping into Fall - detail from center left

TM8508 Slipping into Fall – detail from center left

TM8508 Slipping into Fall - detail from center with lily pads and reflections

TM8508 Slipping into Fall – detail from center with lily pads and reflections

Woodland Rain

TM8507 Woodland Rain 30x40 oil on panel

TM8507 Woodland Rain 30×40 oil on panel

Every visit to the pond begins with a short walk through the woods, and this painting offers a glimpse of the woods that surround the pond. Like much New England acreage, this was once farmland, but the trees are reclaiming their piece of geography. I love the patterns and smells in the woods; the damp, rich loam and composting leaves are preparing the way for next spring’s joyous growth. My recent visit on an overcast day with rain threatening gave me the idea for a subdued, quiet palette of colors, but it was a happy accident that literally made the rain part of the painting.

Technical painting notes: I began Woodland Rain in my usual way, rolling on a thin layer of paint and “interrupting” it with scraping, wiping, spayed solvents, and more rolling. This time the studio temperature was cooler, and with the paint remaining “open” longer  I was able to keep playing with the rolling and re-rolling. The resulting smears and soft edges were interesting in themselves, so I decided to let the surface dry and see how it might work up. Two days later, I started with the sky, developing negative area shapes with a soft brush that allowed for muted edges. Already the panel felt like rain – or more specifically the rain drops on my glasses. I decided to proceed with a light touch, hoping to keep the rain while adding forms (trees). Details below. Enjoy.

TM8507 Woodland Rain - detail showing blur effect created by repeatedly rolling the first layer paint and solvents, then glazing color on top

TM8507 Woodland Rain – detail showing blur effect created by repeatedly rolling the first layer paint and solvents, then glazing color on top

TM8507 Woodland Rain - detail from upper left quadrant showing use of spatter and repeating patterns to define tree boughs and branches

TM8507 Woodland Rain – detail from upper left quadrant showing use of spatter and repeating patterns to define tree boughs and branches

TM8507 Woodland Rain - detail from right of center showing various treatments of tree limbs and trunks (scraped out, wiped out layered in)

TM8507 Woodland Rain – detail from right of center showing various treatments of tree limbs and trunks (scraped out, wiped out, layered in)

September’s Pond

TM8506 September's Pond 30x50 oil on panel

TM8506 September’s Pond 30×50 oil on panel

By September, the lilies have vanished, leaving a clearer view into the water. Leaves scatter their gold and burnt orange  accents across the dark surface, but there’s a quiet aspect to the pond. The water seems deceptively deeper and darker, as if it were preparing for winter and its incipient cover of ice.

In choosing this view, I exaggerated the contrast between the lighter side with its sapling reflections and the darker middle and right with full woods reflected. The leaves and hints of duckweed, along with sky reflections, serve to weave color throughout the composition. Although some of the orange and gold colors are quite bright, the overall feel of the piece is calm. I kept most of the values and colors subdued, creating a sense of quiet and stillness. I still hear the frogs, however. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8506 September Pond - detail from left side, bottom edge showing use of monoprint techniques in first layer, followed by glazes then more opaque highlights

TM8506 September’s Pond – detail from left side, bottom edge showing use of monoprint techniques in first layer, followed by glazes then more opaque highlights

TM8506 September Pond - detai from center left with reflections, floating leaves

TM8506 September’s Pond – detail from center left with reflections, floating leaves

TM8506 September's Pond - detail from center showing use of scraping into first layer

TM8506 September’s Pond – detail from center showing use of scraping into first layer

Technical painting notes: This painting depends on many layered glazes for its color. I mixed transparent pigments into Winsor Newton’s Liquin medium, and applied the glazes with a very soft watercolor “mop” wash brush. Using a very soft brush allows the glazes to be layered while still wet.

Sweet Nothings

TM8505 Sweet Nothings 36x48 oil on panel

TM8505 Sweet Nothings 36×48 oil on panel

In early July, there are tiny yellow flowers on thin stems that grow along the shallower edges of the pond. If you were in a rush, you would miss them, but their cheerful presence grows the longer you look at them. Suddenly they are everywhere, perfectly erect in posture, smaller than the nail on your little finger. Compared to the tough, HUGE waterlilies, they might seem insignificant, but I think these diminutive flowers (which might be called Greater Bladderwort)  are there to remind me that small is, indeed, beautiful. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8505 Sweet Nothings -detail from lower right of center with reflections, close-up of flowers, dappled light

TM8505 Sweet Nothings -detail from lower right of center with reflections, close-up of flowers, dappled light

TM8505 Sweet Nothings -close-up detail

TM8505 Sweet Nothings -close-up detail

Technical painting notes: This painting was supposed to be about light striking pond scum along the edges of the pond, creating an array of beautiful patterns. That was before I saw the bladderwort, and they stole my heart. I adapted the original painted first layer to accommodate the new subject, letting the underpainting show through. I decided to exaggerate the effect of dappled summer light on the pond. I also framed the flowers with yellow halos, as if they were glowing with an inner light, which I think they do. Now the magic of their discovery is embodied in the painting. It is essential to take liberties with the reality of what’s “out there” in order to capture the reality of what occurs in the mind, eye, and heart together.

Composition on a Theme of Time

TN8503 Composition on a Theme of Time 30x30 oil on panel

TN8503 Composition on a Theme of Time 30×30 oil on panel

When I started this painting, I thought there would be trees, distant sky, and of course the outcrop and water. Plans change.Once I started working on the granite and its reflection in the water, I realized that the grand, timeless dignity of the granite deserved to be the focus of the painting. I eliminated almost everything else, but kept the staggering yellow lilies – not just for their color, but because they epitomized  transience in contrast to the nearly unchanging rockface. A slight indication of the water’s current  implies eternal change,  but also allowed me to bring subtle blue into the water. Moss on the granite speaks to damp and shadow while providing an excuse to distribute touches of green throughout the painting. The depth of illusion and reflection in the water, along with the subtle color and stark composition, gives the painting an abstract feel. Enjoy. Details below.

TM8503 Composition on a Theme of Time - detail from left side with granite and waterline

TM8503 Composition on a Theme of Time – detail from left side with granite and waterline

TM8503 Composition on a Theme of Time - detail with foregound lilies, granite reflections

TM8503 Composition on a Theme of Time – detail with foregound lilies, granite reflections

TM8503 Composition on a Theme of Time - detail with foreground lily

TM8503 Composition on a Theme of Time – detail with foreground lily