The opening reception for my show at Arden Gallery yesterday was a lot of fun and a smashing success – thank you to all who helped, encouraged, prompted, cajoled, critiqued, and assisted me with the new pondscape series. I look forward to a continuing relationship this year with my ponds, and lots of new paintings.
A cousin to the painting Arboreal Reflections #1, Arboreal Reflections #2 is based on the same photographs but interpreted differently. Exploring variations on a theme is part of the fun of working with “planned accidents” in the base layer of the painting. Each painting feels like a slightly different moment during the day. Arboreal Reflections #2 has more color and slightly more development of light filtering through the trees and onto the water. Both paintings look at the way we perceive woodland reflections in a shallow pond. Close-up details from the second painting are below. Enjoy!
Technical painting notes: Both versions of Arboreal Reflections started with monoprint techniques of rolling on the paint, quickly followed by manipulating the wet paint with plastic wrap, paper towels, drips, and blotted splashes. Because these techniques allow the artist some control, the feel of each painting is similar. The differences are partly a result of uncontrollable chance accidents and also the way one decision leads to another (and another) until changes are inevitable. Below is Arboreal Reflections #1.
After a few months of puzzling over how to paint ice on the pond, I think I may be finding a way. Icing Up is the first resolved painting of leaves caught under a thin, but solid, layer of ice. It is based on photos I took in November. The photos intrigued me. I’ve included a few below.
Technical painting notes: The key to finding a way to deal with the layered ice condition was learning to use my brayer to put down layers of paint, then re-rolling those layers while they were still wet. The effect was similar to encaustic, creating a hazy, abstract underpainting with a feel of layers seen through a fog. I scratched some dashes onto the surface, and sprinkled solvents (which were also rolled and re-rolled). Once the initial layer dried, I was able to enhance a few details with direct oil painting, then layer numerous glazes for a subtle color. Some spattering suggested duckweed caught in the ice. Another key to accomplishing the painting was keeping to the initial abstractness of the image, and not over doing it. Detail below. Note the layers of manipulated solvent drops and spatters and marks “scratched” into wet glazes.
Why a poem? Perhaps because to me, a poem represents the process of distilling and perfecting a thought. There is something exquisite in a well-crafted poem – every small sound and syllable fills my head with images, feelings, and a look into a world I might otherwise have missed. When a painting really works, it too can create a separate space for reflection, wonder, and joy. Small paintings can feel like haikus, distilling the world down to an essential few inches. Late Autumn Poem gives us a view of the pond’s surface when leaves float but begin to catch as a slight film of ice forms on the water’s surface. Duckweed is still present, as are the reflections of tree trunks, but all of this will change soon. Enjoy!
Technical painting notes: This small oil on panel painting started with a roll-up of dark green and burnt sienna oil paint, using a soft rubber speedball brayer. The wet paint was “disturbed” using a piece of plastic wrap dipped in a mixture of stand oil and mineral spirits. Mineral spirits were splattered on the surface, then I used the brayer to re-roll the surface, softening the hard edges. I also glazed the wet surface with a roll of red oxide and the oil/solvent mixture. I used a soft paper towel to lighten some areas, then spritzed and rolled some more. When the panel was dry, I used traditional direct oil painting techniques to define the leaves. A semi-transparent light blue was brushed on with a watercolor wash brush to suggest reflected sky. Duckweed was achieved by finely spattering two greens and a blue gray color onto the surface, using a beat-up nylon watercolor brush, Liquin, and mineral spirits. A few final glazes balanced the colors.
Leaves falling, building a layered, pieced quilt on the surface of the pond – that’s the subject of this recently completed intimate pondscape. The dark green-black reflected trees and crisp blue-violet reflected sky speak of October’s palette as well, when the bright colors fade and everything tucks in for the winter’s sleep. Enjoy!
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!
My show opened today at Arden Gallery – 15 new oil paintings from the Pondscapes Series. The exhibit is up through March 31, with the reception Saturday, March 8 from 4-6pm. Join me and the staff of Arden Gallery in this celebration of the newest paintings.