Brisk spring – that’s what A Day at the Pond is. I haven’t seen this much green yet, but I couldn’t wait to see it so I painted it. Unfortunately, I also saw snow flakes this week. I suppose the actual cold fused with the imagined spring, resulting in this hybrid of seasonal painting. You might want a jacket, but you will be rewarded. Details below. Enjoy.
It almost slides past notice, but then you look again and hear it. Like a score for summer’s music, the pattern of lily pad ovals suddenly turns into notes on an implied staff. The sound is there if you listen – slight ripples interrupted by pops of air and the plops of frogs, the breeze bending grasses, the rustle of one sound overlaying another….but quietly. Details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: This painting was begun quite a few months ago, with a roll-up of warm siennas and ochres. Then it sat. I was afraid to work on it because it had started so well. I didn’t want to lose the freshness, and yellows, which always scare me with their loudness and lack of tonal range, were going to be the basis of the palette. Yipes! But living in fear of a flat piece of wood isn’t exactly an option either, so I dove into the process with glazes and a couple of new brushes for luck. The ripple patterns weren’t originally so present, but the length of the composition required their emphasis. I went with the warm sienna tones plus a touch of gray, green, and dusky red for subtle contrast. Playing with the grasses, I used calligraphic outlines on some for interest, and played around with the negative shapes to keep some variety. I’m not quite so afraid of yellow now.
TM8544 Pond Logic 36×48 oil on panel
The first observations can seem chaotic – a mass of floating vegetation interrupted by fleeting glimpses of sky, which in turn is broken up by a haphazard grid of trunks and branches. Bot the longer one looks at the pond, the more one sees a certain rhythm in the fractal tapestry. There is a logic to the warp and weft. Everything is in its place for a reason, and the whole is an exquisite sum of the parts. Pond Logic explores variations on a natural grid, one that is leaning toward autumn. Details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I’ve been utilizing hard and soft edges to suggest the “blur” of a watery environment, as well as to suggest a quality of dappling light.
Painting a woodland pond means painting the woods in the pond, and this early spring depiction celebrates the arrival of the first traces of duckweed and grasses. The hint of sunlight penetrating the water and illuminating the sienna-colored bottom marks the end of winter. While working on the painting, one phrase kept going through my mind – nature abhors a vacuum. Pattern on pattern on pattern. Layering the textures then liberating the patterns is like a game of hide and seek. Details below. Enjoy.
It’s the in-betweens that interest me. Not clear – not stormy. Not green – not blue – not gray. These are the qualities I worked to balance in Clearing. Of course the real subject behind the attributes is change, the only constant. Being an optimist, I see the clouds leaving. Others might prefer to see the storm advancing. Either way, there’s a lot of crash, boom, splash going on. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I included close-up details from the wave to show the underlayer of droplets, over which regular brushwork serves to define the form of the wave. Some of the brushwork, especially in the second image, includes paint liberally thinned with an alkyd medium so that the strokes would be somewhat transparent yet with defined edges, in contrast to the smoother, more opaque strokes and spatter.
Octavio Paz opens his poem Between Going and Staying with the following – Between going and staying the day wavers, in love with its own transparency.
The way a pond reflects its surrounding woods can change by the minute, the hour, and the season. Arboreal Reflection #3 is based on the reflections of a greening forest on a calm day. No ripples to disturb the clarity of tree trunks and branches mirrored in the water. The beginnings of flotsam (duckweed and pollen) produce a zig zag of pattern on the surface, which in turn is interrupted by the sheen of reflected sky. Everything is reflected; this layering of experience and fact becomes a transparent whole that seems to transcend the intervals of minutes.
I often go back to my shelf of poetry books for inspiration. Details below. Enjoy.
TM8318 From Nauset 36×44 oil on panel
A wave is a wave is a wave….maybe, until you really look. Then you start to notice the differences in color, the amount of sand in the wave (or seaweed), the oxygenated foam, the ripple patterns, the heave and wash influenced by the sea floor and the part of the beach that is out of sight. Not to mention the effect of the sky on the water’s color, the sparkles caused by wind, spindrift (how much, how high), sand patterns coming up to meet the rush…..and backwash. A lifetime isn’t enough. Enjoy! Details below.
Technical painting notes: I began the painting by establishing the horizon line, then, using a soft rubber brayer, I rolled on a thin mix of ultramarine blue, cerulean, and burnt sienna. I let the burnt sienna take over near the bottom of the painting. Lightly dipping a piece of plastic bag in a mix of stand oil and mineral spirits, I “smooshed” the paint around, letting it streak in horizontal bands that would echo the direction of the waves and water. I used an old brush to flick the oil/solvent mix on the panel to create dots of removed paint, then re-rolled through the wet, streaked paint to soften the effects. I used thinned color that was on the plastic bag to stain the sky area.
When this first layer was dry, I started to develop the image, beginning with the sky. I used some of the sky colors (mixed from blues and burnt sienna plus white) to define waves near the horizon, then worked my way down, adjusting and deepening the colors. My goal was to suggest movement while letting the streaky underlayer show through. This helps to keep the painting lively, not static. Again, I let the painting dry before proceeding to develop the breaking wave.
The wave itself was a case of doing as little as possible, so that the initial colors and textures would show through. I used warm white to suggest highlights, then glazed raw sienna, red oxide, and a bit of Prussian blue into the nooks and crannies to add depth and keep the feel of a wave loaded with sand. Brighter white highlights were added later, then spatters of blue and warm white. When this was all dry, I went back in with glazes to add color interest to the more distant water. I used thinned off-white and white mixed with Liquin to suggest the mist of water blowing off the tops of the wave. I like to keep a balance between precise detail and suggestion, soft and hard edges, warm and cool color. In the case of painting water, I also want to suggest the blur and sparkle of water in motion. The drips and blots in the underpainting, and the spatters on top, add depth and the illusion of movement.