Think Spring

TM8563 Think Spring 36×36 oil on panel

One thing leads to another, and Think Spring evolved into a cousin of Willow Weep. I began Think Spring last year, basing it on reflections of trees overhanging a shallow pond during pollen season. The sense of abstraction combined with the reality of leaf reflections was a challenge which I tackled with copious amounts of drawing then spattering to achieve a softened, pollen-like effect. After using the soft roller on Willow Weep this week, I thought the same techniques might enhance Think Spring, giving it more depth and variety of surface. I like the direction this is taking me. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8563 Think Spring 36×36 oil on panel – detail from left side with reflections – note layered spatter to suggest pollen

TM8563 Think Spring – detail from lower center with reflections under drifting duckweed and pollen

Willow Wind

TM8967 Willow Wind 36×48 oil on panel

I’ve always been entranced by the gracefulness of willows. The narrow leaves seem to be in constant motion, and the luminous color glows toward everything in the vicinity. Willow Wind is a meditation on those qualities, and a chance to further explore the use of a soft  rubber roller to layer and build an image. The painting began with a roll-up of dark paint. While the paint was wet, I used a silicone scraper to draw the leaves, then spritzed the surface with solvent to add a touch of texture. With the base layer dry, I started to define the leaves further using a soft brush and oil color. This was followed by subsequent layers of spatter to soften the image and lend a sense of movement. Transparent oils (mixed with Liquin Impasto medium) were rolled onto the surface to soften the image. I used the roller to suggest more leaf shapes, then enhanced the effect with brush painting. Each time I defined a leaf I subsequently rolled over it, repositioning the wet paint. I found that mixing Liquin Impasto into the paint lent a feeling of encaustic painting to the repeatedly rolled surface. I wanted the spirit and mood of the willows, and the softness of spring’s air. The roller was a wonderful tool for that purpose. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8967 Willow Wind – detail from upper right

TM8967 Willow Wind – detail from center

TM8967 Willow Wind – detail from lower right

A Quiet Trio (achieved with the roller)

TM8963 Spring Finds a Way 7×7 oil on paper

TM8964 Ode to the Month of May 7×7 oil on paper

TM8965 Turning 7×7 oil on paper

These three, small oil paintings on prepared paper explore the reflections seen at my favorite pond – they also were an excuse to play with a soft rubber brayer, or roller,  for applying the paint. I used a palette knife to apply broad areas of paint quickly, then drew into the paint with a pencil and a silicone scraper. With a “scaffolding” in place, I used the roller to soften and smear the paint, letting it soften edges and mute colors. When the initial layer was dry, I went back with brush and roller to refine the image, then added more pencil and scraping to restore lines and structure. Compared to the bold marks of a palette knife, the roller works well as a softening tool. It can really change the mood of a painting. While each of these paintings began life as an autumnal study, the gentleness of the roller’s effect seemed more appropriate to the softer airs of spring – hence the new titles for two of the paintings.

Inspired by Autumn (and a palette knife)

TM8962 Give Me Yellow 6×6 oil on paper

TM8961 Playing by October’s Rules 6×6 oil on paper

I took a break from working on large paintings this week to develop some new ideas for pondscapes and explore different tools – palette knife vs. roller. The two 6×6 oil studies above were developed primarily with a palette knife, building a base for the painting with values and Liquin Impasto medium, then returning a day later to add and manipulate the color. I used my scraper tool to “draw” the reflected trees, infilling with paint as needed.  I also used a graphite pencil to draw into the wet paint. I wanted to emphasize the abstract underpinnings of the pondscape image. Having recently reread a book on Joan Mitchell’s work, I wanted to keep the marks vigorous and the gestures bold. I also took inspiration from the season – autumn is bright, sometimes garish. I went for bold color. The palette knife lends itself to bold marks and hard edges, so I kept to its aesthetic. Looking at the two paintings a few days later, I see a certain resemblance to multiple block color woodcuts – one of my earliest modes of expression.

My next post will feature roller painting……….

October Days Diptych

TM8580 October Days Diptych 36×96 oil on panel

Based on an October day at my favorite pond, this diptych looks at the gorgeous red trees of fall as they are reflected in the water’s surface. The floating duckweed, which will soon disappear for the winter, offers a sharp golden green note. Floating red leaves add punctuation and pop. Because of the larger panoramic size, the viewer is almost engulfed. It’s easy to get lost in the details, indeed almost hypnotized, by the last, luxuriantly gleeful gasp of autumn. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8580 October Days Diptych – detail from bottom of left panel

TM8580 October Days Diptych – detail from upper right corner of right panel

TM8580 October Days Diptych – detail from upper left of right panel with saplings reflected in pond and floating leaves

TM8580 October Days Diptych – detail of reflected trees from bottom edge of left panel

Technical painting notes: Working on a large diptych necessitated two easels, set side by side, each holding one panel. I kept them at the same height, and worked them together. When I needed to spatter or work horizontally, I set up two card tables with the panels on them, butting the sides of the panels.


Bright Blue Days

TM8959 Bright Blue Days 36×60 oil on panel

A few warm days, a bright blue sky, and moods just have to lift. Mine did. The experiments with abstracting the pondscapes (on a small scale) led to this larger interpretation. Both the mood and the space open up, in part due to a change in the scale of the mark-making. I used my soft rubber rollers as much as possible, instead of relying on brushes to define the masses and objects. The result is a wider range of marks, more nuanced edges, and a feeling of air moving through and around the painting. It was an exhilarating experience. The use of the rollers also opens up the option of working larger – uh oh. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8959 Bright Blue Days – detail from left of center with overlapping reflections set against blue sky

TM8959 Bright Blue Days – detail from center with foliage reflections

TM8959 Bright Blue Days – detail from upper left with reflected sky and vegetation – note use of geometric roller marks to create a variety of soft and hard edges

TM8959 Bright Blue Days – detail from right of center showing use of roller to achieve layered soft edges

Technical painting notes: I started the painting by rolling on a mixture of umbers and blues, mixed with Liquin, linseed oil, and mineral spirits. I “disturbed” the wet paint with rags, solvent, and scraped some gestural lines . When the first layer was dry, I started working with my smaller rollers (1-2″) to layer in masses, letting the roller skip around (I added some Liquin to the paint to speed drying). After each layer was dry, I defined negative spaces and plant forms with some brush work, then rolled into the wet paint to integrate new work with the earlier layers. I kept repeating this process until the image felt resolved, understandable but still as loose and gestural as possible. My color choices were determined by the bright blue sky and greens of the reflected foliage. With so much blue green, I had to introduce some complementary orange. The use of olive green and green gold to contrast with the thalo and minty greens provided one source of range. The lemon yellows contrast with the warmer yellows (edging toward mustard). I added the almost pink/salmon details to again offset and complement the blue greens. The blues range from cerulean (warm) to vivid cobalt (cold).

A Breath of Spring

TM8953 So Fine a Day 7×7 oil on paper

I always have a few projects in the works, and one of them is investigating potential ideas for reflection paintings. I usually work out themes and palettes on primed watercolor paper over the course of a few days. The best ones will probably serve as inspiration for something bigger. The five paintings presented here are looking forward to the greener months. They were inspired by photos from a small canal with overarching vegetation that runs beside the studio building. I check it every day. Enjoy.