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 two panels

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.

Wetland Woods

TM8958 Wetland Woods 36x54 oil on panel

TM8958 Wetland Woods 36×54 oil on panel

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.

TM8958 Wetland Woods - detail from center with russet trees and passing, sun-reflected cloud

TM8958 Wetland Woods – detail from center with russet trees and passing, sun-reflected cloud

TM8958 Wetland Woods - detail from right side with reflected trees

TM8958 Wetland Woods – detail from right side with reflected trees

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.

Strong Tides Part Two

Who could get tired of the hypnotizing effect of watching the waves come in? Not me. Below are four more small oils, alliteratively delivered for your enjoyment.

Strong Tides Part One

The small oil on paper paintings are the best way I know to practice improvisational painting. The inspiration can be plein air looking,  or a few photographs taken on a walk. Either way, doing the paintings as quickly as possible, and feeling free to exaggerate, pretend, make mistakes, and try again….allows the imagination to roam while being anchored to reality. While the results look good, it’s the lessons learned from the accidents and the freedom to improvise that I hope will carry over to the larger paintings.