Basking in the Heart of January

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January 30×30 oil on panel

Every woodland has its moments, and this view over a clearing and creek, then up into the hill beyond, glistens with a strong January sun. These are days when you could use a pair of sunglasses, but who could bear to alter the blues and violets, and warm ochres  and siennas in the branches? Not me. Details below. Enjoy.

Technical painting notes: The first stage was rolling a thinned layer of sienna, mixed with violet and umber, onto the whitely primed panel. I scraped into the wet paint to indicate trees and limbs, the spattered some blue-grey paint, and some solvent, to “interrupt” the paint surface, giving it more depth. A few days later, when this base layer was dry, I started to block in the sky, then trees, with a more opaque oil paint.

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – second day, blocking in the sky and using small roller charged with transparent grey paint to block in ground plane in woods

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – second day, close-up showing sky blocked inn, beginning to define tree limbs with highlights over scraped areas, streaky color from base layer showing through

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – second day, beginning to paint tangled growth in foreground, light grey paint rolled over textured color in creek area

I like to work the whole painting, not getting to bound up in the details too early. Using a roller to pick up and reposition wet paint keeps me from worrying the details too soon, and contributes a sort of anarchy that suits the subject. I use Liquin medium to speed the drying time.

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – close-up showing roller marks t indicate ground plane in the woods, spatter from underlayer showing through


TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – end of third day with contrasts developed and shadows refined

On the third day I continued to paint directly with the brush, developing more detail in the trees, and rolling into the wet paint to reposition and multiply the effect of the trees. This serves to soften some edges as well, increasing the sense of depth. By now, the paint was beginning to get “sticky” so I left it to dry.

The fourth day I selectively glazed the shadows. intensified the whites, and added more snow to the trees and tangles. The painting now felt the way I remembered that day, full of cold and joy and wonder.

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – fourth day with more translucent white paint re-rolled onto sunlit areas to increase vibrancy, blue and violet glazes added to woods to define shadows, additional snow added to tangled growth and a few trees for contrast

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – close-up of tangled growth by the creek

TM9260 Basking in the Heart of January – detail from left of center


Winter’s Creek, four studies


This week’s studies are based on a walk I took to visit one of my favorite creeks. With the sun out, is there anything better?

Technical painting notes: The studies were all done on rag paper coated with shellac, front and back, to equalize the tension. I lay down mid to dark values using Liquin as my medium on the first day, When the paint is dry (usually the following day), I develop the image, laying in lights then mid-tones.

Ode to the Winter Woods

TM9255 Ode to the Winter Woods 36×40 oil on panel

Ode to the Winter Woods is my homage to the delights of hiking into the woods during the chilly season. Clean air and the sharp smell of evergreens are refreshing, but it’s the glorious slant light of winter that enchants. Shadows stretch and linger, interrupted by swaths of light. Blue-violet shadows are full of mysteries – who is hiding under the snow? And the bare, deciduous trees allow for glimpses that would be impossible in summer – there’s a creek back there? Details below. Enjoy.

TM9255 Ode to the Winter Woods – detail from right side, looking past foreground scrub into the woods

TM9255 Odeto the Winter Woods – detail from center with snow drifting from branches

Technical painting notes: All of the winter paintings start with a thin application of oil paint with a soft rubber roller, usually a mix of umbers and siennas, sometimes with a bit of pthalo blue added. While the paint is wet, I scrape into it with a silicone scraper, using it to draw the basic position of the trees and branches. I also drip solvent onto the surface to “interrupt” it, creating dots (and streaks, if I lightly brush the dots of solvent).  The mottled surface adds a feeling of depth to the final image. Once the base layer is dry, I use glazes (applied with a soft nylon watercolor wash brush) to develop the color, then use brushes and traditional transparent pigments to develop the details. Occasionally I use a small roller to again interrupt the surface, using it to reposition wet paint and blur edges. This adds a necessary element of chaos, which is certainly abundant in nature. Additional glazes are used to harmonize the final color, with bright highlights painted into the wet surface.

Studying the Creek

TM9250 Winter Walk in the Woods #31 6×6 oil on paper

TM9251 Winter Walk in the Woods #32 6×6 oil on paper

There’s the old expression – practice, practice, practice – and there really is no substitute. The numerous small studies I do each week are a never-ending source of insights. Sometimes it’s an idea for a larger composition, or it might just be following chance, like riffing off a familiar location and letting chance introduce new elements. Whatever happens, painting these little babies is a pleasure. The first view overlooks a creek below the ledge, deep in shadow. The second is down by the creek, further on where the grade evens out. Enjoy.

Later that Morning

TM9248 Later that Morning 36×44 oil on panel

Later that Morning captures the moment when the morning sun reaches over the ridge and touches the tops of the trees. Pretty soon the snow will be melting and the magic of fresh snow will disappear, but for a few more moments the line of demarcation is prominent, and the two worlds – one warmer, one colder, are simultaneously present. Detail below. Enjoy.

TM9248 Later that Morning – detail from lower right

First Big Snowfall

TM9244 First Big Snowfall 36×40 oil on panel

The magic of winter, for me, is the way snow transforms everything. In terms of painting, the snow is graphic, much like a woodcut. Meanwhile, the exposed elements of the landscape are still fairly painterly and express depth. The collision of the graphic and the painterly produces an expressiveness that challenges. Plus all those crisp blues and violets….I can’t resist.

First Big Snowfall is from Hamlen Woods, my (nearest) favorite conservation area. The connected wetlands, creeks and ponds offer so many subjects and perspectives, and joy!  Detail below.

TM9244 First Big Snowfall – detail

Off Trail

TM9246 Winter Walk in the Woods #28 6×6 oil on paper

TM9241 Winter Walk in the Woods #27 6×6 oil on paper

It’s a little tricky going off trail, but worth it. The first small painting is from a creek in the White Mountains off interstate 93, while the second is a bit of ledge (buried by snow) at Hamlen Woods.  Enjoy.

Technical painting notes: Both paintings are on prepared paper. I use rag watercolor or printmaking paper, and shellac it on both sides to isolate the fibers from the oil in the paint. They are meant to be shown in frames, matted and under glass. Doing hundreds of studies and small paintings allows me to experiment and try out new ideas easily.