Cloud-gazing

TM8709 Cloud-gazing 36x44 oil on panel

TM8709 Cloud-gazing 36×44 oil on panel

Cloud-gazing is a dreamy way to enjoy July, and we’ve had some beautiful opportunities lately. I especially love watching the clouds play hide and seek with the trees in the pond. Reflections, though clearly part of the world, seem more magical. And being something of a contrarian, I like the idea of looking down to see up. So join me,  and let the hypnotic effect of a lazy afternoon take you to your own special place, wherever it might be…..details below.

 

TM8709 Cloud-gazing - detail from center showing foliage and cloud reflections with floating leaves - note use of layered textures

TM8709 Cloud-gazing – detail from center showing foliage and cloud reflections with floating leaves – note use of layered textures

TM8709 Cloud-gazing - detail from upper left

TM8709 Cloud-gazing – detail from upper left

TM8709 Cloud-gazing - detail from right side with tree and sky reflectionsunder bits of floating duckweed - note use of scraping into wet paint in tree trunks

TM8709 Cloud-gazing – detail from right side with tree and sky reflections under bits of floating duckweed – note use of scraping into wet paint in tree trunks

TM8709 CLoud-gazing - detail from lower left showing use of layered spatter technique (solvent into first wet paint layer, followed by thinned paint spattered on subsequent wet glaze layers

TM8709 CLoud-gazing – detail from lower left showing use of layered spatter technique (solvent into first wet paint layer, followed by thinned paint spattered on subsequent wet glaze layers

 

Harbinger

TM8708 Harbinger 30x30 oil on panel

TM8708 Harbinger 30×30 oil on panel

Symplocarpus foetidus, commonly known as skunk cabbage, is the first lush green plant signalling spring’s arrival at the pond. It shoots up from the wetlands with its large, furled leaves and seems to joyously shout Spring’s Here! I feel good whenever I see it, and I’ve been studying it for years. After a few practice sketches, I’m finally paying homage to one of my favorite wild plants with this portrait. Enjoy. Details below.

TM8708 Harbinger - detail from lower right with new growth and last season's leaves

TM8708 Harbinger – detail from lower right with new growth and last season’s leaves

TM8708 Harbinger - close-up of symplocarpus foetides, commonly known as skunk cabbage, which grows abundantly in early spring wetlands

TM8708 Harbinger – close-up of symplocarpus foetides, commonly known as skunk cabbage, which grows abundantly in early spring wetlands

Pond’s Edge (with sleeping lily)

TM8706 Pond's Edge (with sleeping lily) 40x36 oil on panel

TM8706 Pond’s Edge (with sleeping lily) 40×36 oil on panel

I’ve been looking at the shallows of my pond, watching the water retreat during this unusually dry summer. There are more grasses and ferns where I used to see fish and frogs. I miss the fauna, but the thriving flora is lovely. Pond’s Edge (with sleeping lily) features reflected ferns, tiny blooming bladderwort, and an apparently sleepy bullhead lily. I wanted to capture the lush quality of greenery at the water’s edge, and the cool stillness of an overcast day. And a sense of serenity. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8706 Pond's Edge (with sleeping lily) - detail from left with fern reflections and floating pollen

TM8706 Pond’s Edge (with sleeping lily) – detail from left with fern reflections and floating pollen

TM8706 Pond's Edge (with sleeping lily) - detail with bullhead lily and reflections

TM8706 Pond’s Edge (with sleeping lily) – detail with bullhead lily and reflections

TM8706 Pond's Edge (with sleeping lily) - detail from left side with reflections and blooming bladderwort

TM8706 Pond’s Edge (with sleeping lily) – detail from left side with reflections and blooming bladderwort

Technical painting notes: I start a painting with an idea, but after the first day it usually goes off on a tangent. Pond’s Edge began with the ferns along the water’s edge (real – not reflected in the water). I worked up the ferns, then started painting the foreground water – but it looked too planned, too forced. After a few days I turned it upside down, rolled some streaky indigo paint on it, spritzed it with solvent, wiped it a bit, then let it dry. The next day I worked on the ferns, adding more density and suggestiveness, then rolled a semi-transparent gray over most of it. I began to like it. Weeks followed, adding lily pads, more pollen, then a lily, and finally the bladderworts.  Lastly I refined the sheen on the water and the sense of movement. It was an adventure. I learned to trust my instincts and to be fearless with the roller.

Quiet Afternoon at the Pond

TM8707 Quiet Afternoon at the Pond 36x36 oil on panel

TM8707 Quiet Afternoon at the Pond 36×36 oil on panel

Quiet Afternoon at the Pond is a view on a typical summer day – undisturbed. During one of my last photo shoots at the pond a wonderful goose did some posing for me. I inserted him into the lower right of the painting, looking much as he did when he said good-bye to me.  That’s one of the pleasures of visiting the pond regularly – getting to know (and sometimes recognize) the wildlife inhabitants. The goose also reinforces the peaceful feeling as he floats calmly away.  Details below. Enjoy.

TM8707 Quiet Afternoon at the Pond - detail with my friend the goose

TM8707 Quiet Afternoon at the Pond – detail with my friend the goose

TM8707 Quiet Afternoon at the Pond - detail

TM8707 Quiet Afternoon at the Pond – detail

TM8707 Quiet Afternoon at the Pond - detail from left side with shoreline and distant hill

TM8707 Quiet Afternoon at the Pond – detail from left side with shoreline and distant hill

Technical painting notes: With mid-summer, the issue is what to do with all those greens? And the answer is mix as many variants as you can, ranging from warm to cool, saturated to grayed.  I used the glow of warmth from the bottom of the pond, along with the blue in the sky (and reflected in the pond) to contribute to the chromatic range of the painting. Transparent glaze is another way to modulate the color.

 

Poem from the Shallows

nc web TM8705 Poem from the Shallows 40x34 oil on panel

TM8705 Poem from the Shallows 40×34 oil on panel

Poem from the Shallows looks at the sudden, rapid growth of spring grasses along the shallowest edges of the pond. It is also part of a long tradition of grass painting. I first encountered fabulous screen paintings of grasses in books purchased at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. Later, as I explored their collection, I discovered the zen qualities inherent in the paintings – a sense of intense focus until time is suspended, the presence of boldness and fragility, the contrast of open space and dense growth, the gestures of striving….enough for a lifetime of study, and painting. Poem from the Shallows follows the painting Stream Currents in my ongoing attempt to paint my own interpretation of the essential grass painting. Of course I realize there is no one essential painting of anything, only the series that charts the attempt. And I love making the attempt. Enjoy. Details below.

nc web TM8705 Poem from the Shallows - detail from upper right

TM8705 Poem from the Shallows – detail from upper right with floating leaves

nc web TM8705 Poem from the Shallows - detail showing young grasses framed by tree trunk reflections

TM8705 Poem from the Shallows – detail showing young grasses framed by tree trunk reflections

nc web TM8705 Poem from the Shallows - detail from lower right

TM8705 Poem from the Shallows – detail from lower right

Technical painting notes: I started the painting with a roll-up of dark blue-black and brownish oil paints, as if beginning a monotype. Using a silicone scraper, I “drew” the gestures of grasses and wiped out some areas of light. Spattering solvent on the wet ink, and selectively blotting it away, left an interesting surface reminiscent of a pond in May. When the paint was thoroughly dry, I repeatedly glazed the surface, building up blues and green. Some of the blades of grass were highlighted with more opaque paint. I also rolled on a film of pale blue-gray mixed with an alkyd medium, then scraped away ripple marks to enliven the surface. Additional indications of ripples were painted when the surface was dry, then glazed. I also layered various blue and grey spatters to suggest light reflecting off pollen. FInally, I added the floating leaves to suggest horizontal movement in contrast to vertical growth, and to establish the flat plane. The cool red petals drifting across the lower center of the painting, though tiny, balance the warmer rust and orange of light glancing through the water and illuminating the bottom of the pond.  Additional modifying glazes of warm and cool blue balanced the ooverall color.

Inside a Yellow Orbit

nc web TM8704 Inside a Yellow Orbit 34x40 oil on panel

TM8704 Inside a Yellow Orbit 34×40 oil on panel

It’s that time of year when I fall in love with the lilies again – especially the yellow bullheads. They are small, but they shout their presence. As I worked on this pondscape, fitting the lilies into the composition, I realized that something about their position reminded me of the comos series of paintings I did years ago. The dots of yellow reminded me of stars in their constellations. Unlike the stars, these points of bright yellow will be gone soon. They will not assist navigation. But in my imagination I will remain in their orbit and they will guide my muse. Enjoy. Details below.

nc web TM8704 Inside a Yellow Orbit - detail with bullhead lilies and pollen

TM8704 Inside a Yellow Orbit – detail with bullhead lilies and pollen

nc web TM8704 Inside a Yellow Orbit - detail

TM8704 Inside a Yellow Orbit – detail

nc web TM8704 Inside the Yellow Orbit - detail from lower right

TH8704 Inside a Yellow Orbit – detail from lower right

 

Getting to the Point

nc web TM8583 Getting to the Point 18x36 oil on panel

TM8583 Getting to the Point 18×36 oil on panel

There’s a spot near the tip of Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada that I have visited regularly for a decade. It’s a remnant of mountain, buried up to its neck in the stony debris that has eroded from it over the millennia. I make the trek because it feels like a sacred place. The sharply faceted and eroded ledge separates two long stretches of shingle. It is possible to stand at the tip and look out on (what could be) a prehistoric world. There are seldom signs of humanity. I know that native people once fished near here. My own family history, as handed down by my grandmother, leads me to believe those fishermen might be among my long-lost ancestors. In the solitude at this spot, I can almost imagine them. Detail below.

nc web TM8583 Getting to the Point - detail

TM8583 Getting to the Point – detail