Early Thaw

TM9003 Early Thaw 36×40 oil on panel

Early Thaw is a meditation on the color blue and its interaction with neutrals and the complement orange. It is also my response to a heat wave and mid-ninety degree temperatures in the studio. I needed to cool off, and what could be better than a winter painting to immerse me in a a chill?

That said, I’ve love the very last leaves that cling to branches all winter. They are papery  thin and manage to hold on through all the gales and bluster. I admire them. I see them every year, and they never disappoint, or fail to inspire me. Pale and rather ghostly in contrast to the brilliant blue sky, they always make their presence known. They add a touch of wit to the serious season. Details below. Enjoy.

TM89003 Early Thaw – detail from left and below center with dry, fluttering leaves reflected in water on ice

TM9003 Early Thaw – detail from above center with leaves, branches, and vines reflected

TM9003 Early Thaw – detail from left side

Technical painting notes: I used a soft rubber roller to apply a thin, translucent sheen of pale blue gray to the water, to suggest a hint of ice


Sunlight and Shade

TM8464 Sunlight and Shade 32×32 oil on panel – newer version

It’s hard to know when a painting is finished. Sometimes they come back from a gallery and I hardly recognize them. It’s as if someone else painted it, or maybe it’s just that I’ve learned more since , and am seeing it with new eyes. Sunlight and Shade is a case in point. It was on exhibit for a while, then returned to the studio. I knew I would use it as a starting point for a new interpretation of the subject, one with brighter color and a more technically varied painterliness. The first version, below, is restrained. The brush marks are smaller, as if threading a tapestry.

TM8464 Sunlight and Shade 32×32 oil on panel – first version

Technical painting notes: Using a soft rubber roller, I was able to make the large gestures of the new design right over the old painting. I also used a mixture of oil and mineral spirits to smear the paint. This interrupted the original and allowed me to think about what was left in a new way. I added the large white cloud and brighter blue sky, and used the layering of roller and brush marks to weave a more vigorous pattern. Details from the newer version are below.

TM8464 Sunlight and Shade – detail from top edge

TM8464 Sunlight and Shade – detail from low and to the right of center with sunlit cloud, ripples, and reflections

TM8464 Sunlight and Shade – detail from right side showing use of layered textures, brush and roller work






September’s Ode

TM8997 September’s Ode 30×50 oil on panel

Strong ultramarine blue can be intoxicating, and I was drunk with it when I painted September’s Ode. The brisk blue autumn skies contrast so well with strong yellow golds and slightly violet browns. The whole painting was an excuse to use those colors, though I did add some vestigial green to balance it. What can I say – happiness and blue skies are meant to be savored. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8997 September’s Ode – detail from upper right showing layers, use of brush, scraping into wet paint, spatter

TM8997 September’s Ode – detail from right of center showing use of spatter and roller marks

Technical painting notes: As you can see from the details above, the painting is a mixture of controlled and loose painting. I used a soft rubber roller to apply the first base layer, then used it again for some of the last few green and yellow leaves. The roller’s staccato rhythm and choppy marks lend variety. I spritzed the base layer with mineral spirits to create the light “dots”, looking for a way to let it show through and keep the actual paint interesting. The process of layering transparent glazes and semi-transparent strokes increases the sense of depth. I use Winsor Newton Liquin medium to increase transparency and to speed drying.

TM8997 September’s Ode – detail with reflections of cumulus cloud and yellow leaves

TM8997 September’s Ode – detail from right side with reflections on shallow water, sunlit pond bottom showing through

Willow WInd

TM8995 Willow Wind 36×48 oil on panel

Who isn’t hypnotized by the movement of reflections in a still pond? Willow Wind is a meditation on those movements, an opportunity to surrender to the moment, to float with slender willow leaves on s soft breeze, to be somewhere else. Sometimes that is more than enough. Details below. Enjoy!

TM8995 WIllow Wind – detail from above center with willow reflections and floating duckweed

TM8995 Willow Wind – detail from upper right

Technical painting notes: Willow Wind evolved slowly, beginning as a much more realistic reflection of leaves in the pond. But I was never satisfied with it – it felt too static. When I thought about the initial experience at the pond, I realized that the movement of the leaves was what attracted me most – the sense that I was watching a dance. With that in mind, I took the plunge, mixed some color with Liquin Impasto medium, then started rolling color onto the surface, softening edges. As the edges softened, the painting started to come to life. The movement implied by the softer edges felt more like what I had seen, and it matched the soft quality of the air that day in early summer. The buttery yellows felt more like the warm sunlight. It took quite a few sessions of rolling, letting it all dry, emphasizing some shapes with brushwork, strengthening colors, then re-rolling with the semi-transparent paint to get the final result.

Any Day Now

TM8553 Any Day Now 36×44 oil on panel

Any Day Now is my return to a more abstracted pond – a close-up, angled view with young lily pads and a scattering of grasses.  The details are still closely observed, but the cropping lets one see the pattern first, then the actual objects. Additionally, the staccato rhythm of grasses and reflected tree trunks and branches gives this painting a strong sense of movement and energy. And, as if that weren’t enough, I decided to paint in a breezy, cumulus-studded sky. As for the title….well, I’ve been anticipating the return of lilies….who hasn’t? The pads are here, the lilies will be open soon. Embrace the day. Details below.

TM8553 ny Day Now – detail from right side showing use of layered spatter and scraping

TM8553 Any Day Now – close-up with waterlilies

TM8553 Any Day Now – detail from just above center right

Technical painting notes: I wanted this painting to have more energy and lots of contrast, so the initial layer was a mixture of black and blues, with a touch of greenish umber. I worked quickly with solvents and my soft rubber roller to maximize the textures. Later layers focused on glazing and finding the negative shapes of sky between the branches and pads. Additional glazing with cerulean and ultramarine blue helped to suggest the pattern of cloud and blue sky. At this point, I almost thought the painting was done. I hung it on the wall to dry, and studied it for over a year. Eventually, I realized the lily pads weren’t enough – the painting needed more focus. I added some white lilies, positioned near the center, but light enough in value to “blend in” with the cumulus cloud reflection.

Morning’s Poem

TM8993 Morning’s Poem 36×44 oil on panel

Morning’s Poem is a gentle meditation on pond reflections in the month of May. It is also a play between hard and soft edges, the interlacing of brush and roller work, and the precarious balance between near and far reflections. Throw in some flotsam and pollen floating on the surface, and you have the elements of a visual puzzle. I painted and repainted, glazed and rolled, looking for balance. As I worked, the painting lightened, perhaps influenced by the advent of sunny days. Those blue skies influenced the amount of blue in the painting. A few white clouds also found their way into the composition. One could say the painting is a summation of the week’s weather – cloudy, chilly, clear, then warm. That’s spring. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8993 Morning’s Poem – detail from lower center

TM8993 Morning’s Poem – detail from lower right

Gossamer Days

TM8979 Gossamer Days 36×40 oil on panel

Color, as reflected in a woodland pond in autumn, is the apparent subject addressed in this new painting. But it’s also about the ethereal nature of time and the ineffable quality of air. Close values and tones describe a moisture rich atmosphere, and create a glow or vibration in the eye. Drifting leaves and layers of reflections speak to the accumulation and passage of time. I relied on an interweaving of roller and brush work to describe reality while allowing for unexpected hard edges and a degree of abstraction. I sometimes tell my students to take off their glasses to see the other world we inhabit/inhibit in our paintings. As Alice found, looking through the glass can yield wonderful surprises in an upside down world. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8979 Gossamer Days – detail near center showing multi-layered approach, use of glazes, roller and brush work

TM8979 Gossamer Days – detail from center bottom with reflections and floating leaves

TM8979 Gossamer Days – close-up showing layers, scraping into wet paint, roller strokes vs. brush strokes

TM8979 Gossamer Days – detail from center top of painting

Technical painting notes: Oil paints dry slowly, so working with layers can take an inordinate amount of time. To speed the process, I use Winsor Newton Liquin medium. When mixing color to roll on, I add a bit of Liquin original to the paint. If I’m rolling on a glaze, I add Liquin Impasto medium. The transparency and glow of layered rolling can be subtly  effective.