Early April in the Woods

nc web TM8970 Early April in the Woods 36×40 oil on panel

An observation – early April in the Woods looks a lot like late fall. The snow is gone; there are a few papery leaves still holding. Color is muted.  But oh joy! there is warmth in the sun and it feels like buds will be popping soon. I actually love this intermediate season with its subtle tones and promises. Gray and tan predominate, with a nod to the green pines. It feels so linear before the foliage returns, and I happen to like lines. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8970 Early April in the Woods – detail from upper center with pines and lingering leaves

TM8970 Early April in the Woods – detail from lower left quadrant

TM8970 Early April in the Woods – detail from below center

Technical painting notes: I used the soft rubber roller to lay down a dark oil paint (mostly burnt umber and black), then worked into it with rags and spattered mineral solvents to create a pattern of lights and darks with interesting textures. While the paint was wet I used a scraper to draw the major tree forms and branches. With the first layer dry, I alternated spatter and dry brush with applications of loose paint. Glazes modulated the color.

Greening Up

TM8966 Greening Up 36×54 oil on panel

This might be wishful thinking, considering there are still piles of snow on the ground, but spring is just around the corner. Soon, there will be shoots of green emerging, and the trees will be blushing every shade of pale yellow, green, and pink as they announce their buds. Greening Up looks at the first green reflections in the pond, and the growth of wetland grasses. It is a dense painting, full of layered detail and layered paint. The viewpoint is from a narrow path that bisects part of the wetland, near an area where beavers are always patrolling, looking for supplies for their newest engineering projects. Bless them; supplies are bountiful. Details below.

TM8966 Greening Up – detail from bottom edge with reflected tree limbs

TM8966 Greening Up – detail from top center with young grasses emerging through pond reflections

TM8966 Greening Up – detail from center with dense foliage reflections in shallow water

Technical painting notes: I used a soft rubber roller to roll a layer of greenish blue and dark brownish green oil paint onto the panel, then used a silicone scraper to draw out the tree limbs. A spritz of solvent, blotted, added textures. When the base layer was dry, I developed the painting with traditional oil painting techniques, doing limited scraping into the newer wet paint. Multiple glazes added depth to the color. A last layer of  rolled, blue/gray transparent oil paint added a slight sheen to the water

Think Spring

TM8563 Think Spring 36×36 oil on panel

One thing leads to another, and Think Spring evolved into a cousin of Willow Weep. I began Think Spring last year, basing it on reflections of trees overhanging a shallow pond during pollen season. The sense of abstraction combined with the reality of leaf reflections was a challenge which I tackled with copious amounts of drawing then spattering to achieve a softened, pollen-like effect. After using the soft roller on Willow Weep this week, I thought the same techniques might enhance Think Spring, giving it more depth and variety of surface. I like the direction this is taking me. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8563 Think Spring 36×36 oil on panel – detail from left side with reflections – note layered spatter to suggest pollen

TM8563 Think Spring – detail from lower center with reflections under drifting duckweed and pollen

Willow Wind

TM8967 Willow Wind 36×48 oil on panel

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.

TM8967 Willow Wind – detail from upper right

TM8967 Willow Wind – detail from center

TM8967 Willow Wind – detail from lower right

A Quiet Trio (achieved with the roller)

TM8963 Spring Finds a Way 7×7 oil on paper

TM8964 Ode to the Month of May 7×7 oil on paper

TM8965 Turning 7×7 oil on paper

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.

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.