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.
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.
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……….
Wetland Woods is my homage to the deceptively quiet feeling one can have gazing into a pond in the woods. The water’s edge disappears into the trees, the trees disappear into the water, and there is a subtly wonderful balance to it all. On this day, a white cloud was drifting across my gaze, and I could feel the sun warming the russet tones of the September trees. By this time of year, the lilies are pretty much done, and the water clears. Only a little dust and pollen catches the soft grazing light across the water.Details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: the image began with a roll-up of dark green and sienna oil paints, which were manipulated with solvent and scrapers to capture the gestures and textures of the woods. When the base layer was dry, I applied a multitude of glazes to modulate the color, waiting for each layer to dry before applying the next. I developed the details of branches, painting into the scraped gestures with color and highlights. Some spattering into the foliage added textures suggestive of leaves in reflection. The sky was painted negatively, as space between positive forms, then glazed to strengthen the blue. The white cloud was painted in toward the end, to add light. A final glaze of crimson over some of the russet tones added richness and a cool note. I kept lots of neutral colors in my palette to enhance to quiet, meditative feeling.
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.
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.
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.
The question is what mood to paint – serenity or turbulence. Small oil on paper studies are my way of investigating both a scene and my own mood. This quartet, based on the sea after a storm, definitely depicts high energy, while the vigorous brushwork reflects my own delight with getting an early morning start in the studio. Each little painting is an investigation of form, color, and composition. They might well grow up and become big paintings. Or they might remain an expression of one unique Monday morning, filled with the confidence of blue skies and fresh air.
Technical painting note: The key to the palette knife work was the viscosity of the paint. I wanted the paint to not just describe the wave but embody it. To that end, I mixed Windsor/Newton Liquin Impasto medium and Liquin Original medium into the mixed colors. The result was a very liquid paint that wouldn’t drip when applied to a vertical support. The viscosity of the paint allowed me to work in layers, dragging one color and form over a base without disturbing it. It also aided in making the palette knife strokes feel like the wave – heavy and dense.