Ode to Spring

TM8939 Ode to Spring 36x40 oil on panel

TM8939 Ode to Spring 36×40 oil on panel

Years ago I used to do mostly woodcuts and linocuts. Each year I would carve a new block and title it Anticipating Spring. It was my way of saying good-by to winter, but mostly it was a way to dwell in the anticipation of spring and everything it brings – warmth, moisture, green, and especially a gentleness in the air. Ode to Spring renews my old ritual, but this time larger and with paint. The view into and across a body of water with its reflections and scattered, floating leaves says it all.

But there is another way in which Ode to Spring harks back to the earlier woodcuts. Instead of relying on a paint brush, this painting was (mostly) worked up with the same brayers I used to print the woodcuts.  Full circle, or nearly. The rollers, with their ability to lay a thin coat and blend edges, provided an unexpected softness to the image. At the same time, the hard edges and larger “marks” lent a boldness. The light bulb in my head was blinking – the rollers could provide a way to work larger and “open up” the space in my paintings. Needless to say, it has been an exciting week in the studio. I’ve started priming some larger panels.

 

Rough Seas

TM8936 Winter Waves #7 7x7 oil on paper

TM8936 Winter Waves #7 7×7 oil on paper

A last hurrah for winter? Maybe. The dramatic winter waves series is probably coming to an end for this year, at least in its smaller dimensions. The process of working quickly and spontaneously did teach me to trust my instincts more, and to let the paint be paint – thick, thin, runny, fat….love it! Four more paintings below. Enjoy.

Ode to the Sunlit Days

TM8933 Ode to the Sunlit Days 36x48 oil on panel

TM8933 Ode to the Sunlit Days 36×48 oil on panel

Ode to the Sunlit Days is an alternative response to being in the heart of February. Or, to put it another way, after concentrating on so many winter waves, and playing with more abstract ways to depict them, I decided to try my new way of thinking on a pondscape.  Being in a cold studio (thank you winter) meant that the paint didn’t “set up” quickly. I had all day to push it around, overlay, and rework. The more I layered the translucent paint, the more it glowed. The painting quickly became the warmest thing in the studio. I decided to emphasize the warmth, and returned with a greater range of soft yellows later in the week. The recent wave paintings, stripped to black and a range of blues, express winter and probably are my response to the times. Ode to the Sunlit Days is a reflection on possibilities, and a time when life might again be abundant and filled with grace and joy. Details below.

TM8933 Ode to the Sunlit Days - detail from right side with floating leaves

TM8933 Ode to the Sunlit Days – detail from right side with floating leaves

TM8933 Ode to the Sunlit Days - detail from upper right

TM8933 Ode to the Sunlit Days – detail from upper right

TM8933 Ode to the Sunlit Days - detail from upper left

TM8933 Ode to the Sunlit Days – detail from upper left

TM8933 Ode to the Sunlit Days - detail from right of center with reflections and floating leaves

TM8933 Ode to the Sunlit Days – detail from right of center with reflections and floating leaves

TM8933 Ode to the Sunlit Days - detail from right of lower center with reflected pond-side vegetation

TM8933 Ode to the Sunlit Days – detail from right of lower center with reflected pond-side vegetation

Technical painting notes: I started the painting by rolling burnt sienna and warm green paint, mixed with a bit of alkyd medium, onto the surface of the primed panel. This was spritzed with mineral solvents then re-rolled, wiped, and manipulated to create a highly textured surface. When the panel was dry, I used soft brushes to block in the blues of the reflected sky. When this layer was dry, I used my smaller rollers to apply the paint, blocking in the leaf shapes, going back and forth between brushes and rollers to achieve detail then mute the edges. The roller’s hard-edged, dancing shapes  quickly evoked the dancing quality of leaves in a breeze, adding considerable movement to the painting. As with the smaller paintings, I used a silicone scraper to “draw” into the paint.

Winter Waves (part two)

TM8930 Winter Waves #2 7x7 oil on paper

TM8930 Winter Waves #2 7×7 oil on paper

Continuing my study of winter waves, Winter Wave #2 is larger (7×7) and has that extreme slant of light and shadow so indicative of winter in our northern latitudes. Winter’s brilliant blues and strong whites are cold, but the warm white of the prepared paper ground showing through feels like sunshine. Liking the larger size, I decided to try another, but this time zooming in.

TM8929 Winter Waves #1 7x7 oil on paper

TM8929 Winter Waves #1 7×7 oil on paper

The topsy-turvy angles and ominous heft of the wave are dramatic. I wanted the strong contrast, but within the large areas of contrast I still wanted some luminosity and a hint of detail. Working with both knife and brush, and with lots of medium, I found I could emulate the waves with a flick of the knife. Oh lucky day! Going back into the painting a few days later allowed me to develop subtleties in the dark areas and a tracery of foam near the top of the wave. Detail below. Enjoy.

TM8929 Winter Waves #1 - detail from foreground

TM8929 Winter Waves #1 – detail from foreground

Winter Waves (part one)

TM8931 Winter Waves #3 6x6 oil on paper

TM8931 Winter Waves #3 6×6 oil on paper

TM8932 Winter Waves #4 6x6 oil on paper

TM8932 Winter Waves #4 6×6 oil on paper

Winter waves seem thick, a bit sluggish, but still powerful. Painting them, I chose to emphasize the weight of the water, and its rugged movement. There is a certain abstraction that occurs when the subject is brought closer. And energy – a big thunderous whoooshhhh. I like the vibrations.

Technical painting notes: I mixed Winsor Newton Liquin Impasto medium into the paint to give it body and to make it almost like frosting to spread with a knife. I also decided to utilize the off-white of the ground in contrast to the cooler white of the paint, letting the primed paper act as a color in itself. The “bareness” of the exposed paper makes the thick paint used for the waves seem even heavier.

After the Storms

TM8928 After the Storms 36x54 oil on panel

TM8928 After the Storms 36×54 oil on panel

Rough weather equals great waves – at least for painting. After the Storms is a close-up view of the Atlantic in winter. Not a place you would want to stand and observe for long, but with the help of a zoom lens I watched those waves come in until my toes complained. Stay warm. Details below.

TM8928 After the Storms - detail from foreground

TM8928 After the Storms – detail from foreground

TM8928 After the Storms - detail from center with ribbons of foam

TM8928 After the Storms – detail from center with ribbons of foam

TM8928 After the Storms - detail from lower right with water cascading over granite ledge

TM8928 After the Storms – detail from lower right with water cascading over granite ledge

TM8928 After the Storms - detail from crashing wave

TM8928 After the Storms – detail from crashing wave

Listen Again

TM8922 Listen Again 36x36 oil on panel

TM8922 Listen Again 36×36 oil on panel

Life can be a cacophony, and there are times when we all need a break. My solution is to bury myself in the studio, put a Yo Yo Ma compact disk in the player, and dive into some waves. The glories of Bach, Ma’s expressive cello, and my imagined sea will usually see me through. Something about the back and forth rhythm of painting waves, the way of the body aligns its movements to the music and the subject, the need to concentrate on precise linear patterns….it soothes the spirit and nourishes the soul. Maybe that explains the title. I painted my first Listen painting not long ago. This painting is titled Listen Again. I suspect there will be another……Enjoy.