In the Footsteps of Thoreau

TM8448 In the Footsteps of Thoreau 36x40 oil on panel

TM8448 In the Footsteps of Thoreau 36×40 oil on panel

The pond at Hamlen Woods in Wayland isn’t my only source for inspiration. The Concord town forest, also known as the Hapgood Wright conservation land, and more historically known as Fairyland, provides ample opportunities for hiking, strolling, and enjoying the meditative beauty of a large pond, creek, and wetlands. This is Thoreau country, and I can almost see him every time I visit. He’s taking notes in a small journal, while I’m doing the same thing with my camera.

In the Footsteps of Thoreau is my first major painting from this locale. Early autumn, and I’m looking across the pond to a sharply rising, forested hill. The trail on the opposite bank is just discernible against the warm tones of fragrant pine and hemlock needles. The greatest challenge was the water, mirror-like yet filled with lilies on top and other vegetation below. The colors were so subtle. I started the painting last fall, spent two days working on it, then couldn’t figure out how to finish it without losing the freshness of color from the first layer and glazes. I was afraid I’d get too murky with the water. Solution – forget about it! I turned the painting toward the corner of the studio and started many others. This January, when I looked at it again, I realized it didn’t need much. Using some of the new techniques I’d developed in previous paintings, and with a changed attitude, I plunged in with a loaded wash brush. Soon the water was coming alive, and I was in love with the painting again. Details below. Enjoy!

TM8448 In the Footsteps of Thoreau - detail from far bank, left of center

TM8448 In the Footsteps of Thoreau – detail from far bank, left of center

TM8448 In the Footsteps of Thoreau - detail from right side of far bank, water's surface with reflections,

TM8448 In the Footsteps of Thoreau – detail from right side of far bank, water’s surface with reflections

Technical painting notes: I found a new brush for glazing – a Winsor Newton Cotman watercolor mop/wash brush from Dick Blick that comes in a few sizes (not too expensive), and has exceptionally soft hairs. You can layer glazes (especially in cold weather) without having to wait for the under layer to dry. Another find was a Robert Simmons white (nylon) soft-haired wash brush that comes to a sharp oval when wet and is useful for getting glaze into very specific places while blending some of the edges. I used it to paint the sky reflections while keeping the edges of the tree reflections muted. The Cotman brush takes a while to clean, however!

TM8448 In the Footsteps of Thoreau - detail from foreground water with floating leaves

TM8448 In the Footsteps of Thoreau – detail from foreground water with floating leaves

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