Pond and River Studies


I’m always looking for new ponds and rivers to investigate. Sometimes the newest are close-by; it’s just takes a fresh perspective or change of weather…….enjoy.

Technical painting notes: Each of these studies is painted on prepared watercolor paper (one coat of clear shellac front and back, to isolate the fibers from the acid in the paint). I used Winsor Newton Impasto medium to speed drying and to give the paint a rich, buttery feel – very useful for palette knife painting. I find a silicone scraper with a chiselled tip especially useful for drawing through the wet paint to reveal color below. I also used an ebony pencil to draw into the wet paint for darker lines and to offer crisp graphic relief when juxtaposed with the buttery paint.


Edge of the Meadow

TM9167 Edge of the meadow – Late Summer 7×7 oil on paper

TM9168 Edge of the Meadow – June 7×7 oil on paper

I love the mundane, the easily overlooked, the ordinary, and yes, the non-view. Why? Because the more you really look at anything, including everything that is supposed to be boring or inconsequential, the more you start to see how amazing everything is. To focus is to see, and that’s what I choose to devote my life to – seeing and sharing what I see. These two meadow studies are “no place in particular.” Yet oh how lovely each place is, from the close harmonies of color to the way nature (the trees) gingerly step out toward the pasture, as if taking small steps each year will bring something closer – but what? Enjoy.


Technical painting notes: These two small oils were painted on rag paper primed front and back with clear shellac. I used primarily a palette knife and Winsor Newton’s Liquin Impasto medium to control translucency and the density of the paint.

Ode to the Frail and Fluttering Leaves

TM9160 Ode to the Frail and Fluttering Leaves 36×54 oil on panel

Another interpretation of looking through trees – a bird’s-eye view, maybe? I don’t know if I’m swooping in to land on a branch, or studying the whole scene in the pond’s reflection, but it’s a tumultuous world of light and color and I’m loving it! Details below. Enjoy.

TM9160 Ode to the Frail and Fluttering Leaves – detail from lower edge showing soft focus roller paint application with sharper edged brush work

TM9160 Ode to the Frail and Fluttering Leaves – detail from right of center showing brush and roller paint application

TM9160 Ode to the Frail and Fluttering Leaves – detail from left side with sky and clouds

Technical painting notes: Adding Winsor Newton Liquin Impasto Medium to the oil paint speeds the drying and makes rolling out color easier. I often use half medium/half oil paint when rolling. It also increases translucency and provides a kind of glow as the colors layer over each other. When working with the roller, remember you can let it “hop, skip, and jump” its way across the surface, or use the edge of the roller for thinner lines.

Watching the Wind

TM9162 Watching the Wind 36×60 oil on panel

Watching the Wind continues my exploration of the effects of wind on trees – now a quickly developing series.  The city planted some young trees in front of Fenway Studios, and I am fortunate to have one in front of my studio. For two years I’ve had the pleasure of watching my tree grow, and worrying for its health in high winds. Watching the branches toss and sway may have contributed to this painting, which continues the theme of movement. Good luck little tree. Enjoy. Details below.

TM9162 Watching the Wind – detail from upper right

TM9162 Watching the Wind – detail from left of center looking through blowing leaves

TM9162 Watching the Wind – detail from lower left side showing use of line and soft focus shapes to create space and imply motion

Technical painting notes: I used a soft rubber roller to apply a “disturbed” layer of blue/black oil paint to the surface of the smooth panel (using mineral spirits and plastic wrap to lighten and move the paint, creating interesting streaks and gestures. When the dark layer was dry, I used Winsor Newton Liquin alkyd medium to apply thin glazes of color. While the glaze was wet, I began blocking in the major sky shapes with a soft brush, then established the pattern of branches and twigs. I tried to take advantage of the accidental effects showing through from the first layer. Once this second layer was dry, I used Liquin Impasto medium mixed into my paint to roll on thin layers of color, using the roller to “draw” the overlapping shapes of leaves. More glazes followed. The repeated layering of roller work and line work, soft-focus and crisp line, increased the sense of space and implied movement


Then the Sun Came Out

TM9153 Then the Sun Came Out 36×40 oil on panel

A break in the clouds lets afternoon sun illuminate the top of the dune. This painting is based on a visit to Crane Beach about six years ago. I spent a good part of that day hiking the trails and photographing the various types of vegetation while waiting for the clouds to finally give way. By the time the sun poked through, my camera’s batteries were spent! I could only sit and memorize. Ever since, I’ve been thinking about those dunes and wondering how I might capture the incredible light and atmospherics. This past week I finally took the plunge. I originally thought I’d paint the dune in full sun, but as I worked, I realized that leaving the foreground in shadow would be more true to my experience and memory. So there it is, a pale blue shadow encroaching up the dune, juxtaposed with a ribbon of sunlight. Enjoy. Details below.

TM9153 Then the Sun Came Out – detail with sun glancing off summit of dune

TM9153 Then the Sun Came Out – detail

TM9153 Then the Sun Came Out – detail from shadowed sand with encroaching grasses

Technical painting notes: I used a soft rubber roller to lay in a range of gray browns initially, then wiped and manipulated the paint to create subtle textures for the areas of  vegetation. A little spatter with mineral spirits created variously sized “dots” emulating sand. When the base layer was dry, I blocked in the sky and distant dune, then used a roller charged with semi-transparent grayish paint to block in the patches of sand on the primary dune. The grasses were partly suggested using the roller on its edge in a rocking motion. When this layer was dry, I glazed color into some areas, adjusted the luminosity of the sky, and used a soft brush to vary the intensity of color and value in the sand.


Late Summer on the Dune

TM9147 Late Summer on the Dune 36×44 oil on panel

There’s such a challenge painting dunes – the grasses and vegetation, the shifting sands, the soft and muted colors later in the year. I think it’s all those in-between colors that first drew me in, and the open space. There’s also a quality of emptiness, despite the vibrant life that calls this environment home. The dunes, being un-anchored, also remind me of the transience of life. Things happen and disappear. I think on that. Details below.

TM9147 Late Summer on the Dune – detail

TM9147 Late Summer on the Dune – detail from right side showing distant sand and vegetation

TM9147 Late Summer on the Dune – detail from foreground showing use of spatter, scraping, and roller

Technical painting notes: I used many monoprint techniques on this painting, beginning with a roll-up of umber and sienna oil paints which were manipulated  to capture the broader shapes and gestures of the scene. Scraping and blotting, spatter, and pressing textures into the wet paint gave me myriad textures to emulate plant growth. When the base layer was dry, I used spatter, brushwork, and more scraping to define areas. Very thin applications of paint (with roller and brush) established the sand. I liked the vague edges of rolling “sand” over “plant”, and decided to keep the lower part of the painting more suggestive, (the dunes are about shift and change). Details were developed in the middle ground, contrasting with the darker band of sea and sky above it.


May Morning

TM9146 May Morning 36×48 oil on panel

May Morning is my homage to spring, that gentler time of year. While I was working on the painting, I was imagining sitting on the outcrop with a sketchbook and a thermos – a delightful way to enjoy the fine weather. Details below, Enjoy.

TM9146 May Morning = detail from left side

Technical painting notes: I built the painting in layers, starting with a roll-up of umber and burnt sienna oil paint, which was manipulated with rags  and mineral solvents to block in the larger forms. Spattering laid a base for the granite. Later additions, painted with a brush, dabbed, and stippled, suggested the foliage and water. I used a thin film of grey, transparent paint (rolled on) to help establish the granite. Spatter and stippling brought it into focus.

TM9146 May Morning – detail – ledge and its reflection