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.

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.

A Quiet Snowfall

TM9242 A Quiet Snowfall 36×40 oil on panel

Most of my paintings these days have an unexpected trajectory – I start with an idea, then it suddenly morphs and I end up in a new place. This view near the edge of my pond is an example. I fell in love with some recent photographs of the spot taken this past October and November. The olive greens and russets were beautiful together, and the arc of land with a hint of the pond and creek beyond formed a good contrast with tall foreground trees. I thought the golden light would set the mood. I started painting, and it was looking pretty good……

….until I found a picture from the same spot, one I had taken last December. Oh the magic of a snowfall! Suddenly all those russets looked brown and unexciting. With the painting nearly finished, I didn’t want to stop, but I couldn’t continue either, so I picked up my trusty rubber roller and started painting in snow. Immediately, the magic was back. I plunged on, switching to a brush occasionally. The silence of falling snow was now the subject of the painting, an all-enveloping silence; it was the music I needed to hear. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9242 A Quiet Snowfall – detail showing snow clumped on boughs

TM9242 A Quiet Snowfall – detail

Technical painting notes: I suspect that the motto of the post is to trust your instincts. The painting started with a roll-up of dark rusty burnt siennas, and umbers, mixed with violet. My aim was to set the patterns of light and dark, and establish some subtle textures that would “show through” the transparent glazes I would later apply. I used a scraper to remove paint, allowing for a suggestion of the weeds and underbrush in the foreground and tree trunks in the distance. When the base layer was dry, I glazed in color and started working with brushes and my roller to refine the forms and details. Then the breakthrough  – switching the season to early winter. I used a roller and brushes to “lay” snow on everything (shades of gray, violet, and blues, mixed with Liquin). I also spattered pale blue/gray and white for snow.


Stormy Days on the Coast -Studies

TM9214 Watching the Waves Roll In #233 7×7 oil on paper

TM9213 Watching the Waves Roll In #232 7×7 oil on paper

TM9216 Watching the Waves Roll In #236 7×7 oil on paper

I’ve been watching lots of heavy storms lately, and though the grey skies can become tiresome, the water’s turbulence is fascinating. These studies from Gloucester were fun to paint. I mixed Liquin Impasto medium into the paint to get a frosting-like consistency that would emulate the foamy water. Applying the paint with a knife kept it loose, and reminded me of decorating birthday cakes with my mom when I was young. More to come…….

Here Comes Autumn

TM9205 Here Comes Autumn 30×36 oil on panel

The disarray of late summer at the garden’s edge – a great excuse to let loose with some expressionistic brush and roller work. These coneflowers  (and a few Queen Ann’s Lace) provided the inspiration. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9205 Here Comes Autumn – detail from lower left of center

TM9205 Here Comes Autumn – detail from upper right showing use of narrow roller to describe leaves

Technical painting notes: I used a number of soft rubber rollers to apply the paint – 4 inch and 2 inch Speedballs, and a Takech extra narrow.