Into the Woods – Joyful May

TM9005 Into the Woods – Joyful May 36×44 oil on panel

The first strokes are always the hardest, no matter that I’ve painted the subject previously. The question is how will I take everything I’ve learned and find a new way to reveal the spirit of the place. Will I focus on botanical and geological detail, or concentrate on the energy and movement, my feelings in the place? Into the Woods – Joyful May definitely takes the latter approach, and is based on the wonder and joy I felt encountering spring in one of my favorite places. The soil, what little there is, barely supports mature trees. But the trees keep growing anyway. Saplings abound, and even though the older trees are stunted in their growth, they are still beautiful and productive. The stony outcrops make walking in these woods a trick, but oh it is so worth the effort! Details below. Enjoy.

TM9005 Into the Woods – Joyful May – close-up from upper left showing various treatments of bough and branch with sky (note use of roller vs. brush and layering)

TM9005 Into the Woods – Joyful May – detail from foreground with young growth sprouting from ledgy soil

TM9005 Into the Woods – Joyful May – close-up from right of center foreground with young saplings at the field’s edge

TM9005 Into the Woods – Joyful May – close-up from center foreground

Technical painting notes: I rolled a mixture of dark browns and greens onto the panel, scraping, dabbing, and lifting the paint while it was wet, working to create a range of gestures and textures. When the base layer was dry, I started to refine the image by “pulling out” the negative shapes of sky, glazing selectively, and beginning to define he major tree forms. When the image started to tighten up, I employed a soft rubber roller to apply paint in loose patches, providing a sense of energy and movement to the trees. Additional layers of loose brushwork suggested the tumult of branches and leafy growth. Some spatter, with re-rolling and glazing, provided visual interest and, perhaps unconsciously, injected a touch of pollen.

A slightly earlier painting from another location at Purgatory Chasm, In the Heart of the Woods, depicts a portion of the gorge walk and shows why it is so difficult for trees to gain purchase in the thin soil and granite uplifts.

TM9004 In the Heart of the Woods 36×30 oil on panel

 

 

From a Walk in the Woods 1-4

One can never do enough studies; nature provides such continually changing subject matter.  This past week I visited some favorite woodlands, camera in hand. Back at the studio I couldn’t wait to record what I had seen and felt. The smell of pine needles baked in warm sun, new leaves bursting everywhere, and the glittery look of sun on mica-laden ledges. The four studies above will find their way into larger paintings, but first I might have to go back to the woods for more studies. Oh fun!

Technical painting notes: All the paintings were done on prepared, heavy weight watercolor paper (primed with a coat of shellac front and back). I used a palette knife and lots of Winsor Newton Liquin Impasto medium to lay in a base arrangement of dark shapes and colors. Later, I blocked in the sky and refined the trees and rocks with a brush and more palette knife work.  The layering process and use of Impasto medium creates a rich surface –  more of a finished painting than a sketch, though still fresh.

Bittersweet Season

TM8912 Bittersweet Season 44x36 oil on panel

TM8912 Bittersweet Season 44×36 oil on panel

In autumn the invasive bittersweet vine spreads its orange berries through the woods and field edges. I have mixed feelings about it. It is beautiful, and its twiny branches and brilliant berries are wonderful in seasonal decorations. But oh does it spread, spiralling out of control and choking native species. Never the less, I feel compelled to pay it homage. So here it is – Bittersweet Season, injecting cheery orange into the quiet tones of late fall. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8912 Bittersweet Season - detail from lower center

TM8912 Bittersweet Season – detail from lower center

TM8912 Bittersweet Season - detail looking at overcast sky through trees

TM8912 Bittersweet Season – detail looking at overcast sky through trees

TM8912 Bittersweet Season - detail from lower center with dense growth of bittersweet vine

TM8912 Bittersweet Season – detail from lower center with dense growth of bittersweet vine

Technical painting notes: I began the painting with a base layer of rolled oil paint, selectively wiped, scraped and spritzed with mineral spirits to create interesting textures. I used glazes and flat watercolor brushes to add color and block in the sky and trees. However, the result felt too controlled. Bittersweet is rampant by nature, and the painting needed to have the same energy. I also wanted to experiment with palette knife and scraping into wet paint, much as I have done in my small 6×6 Into the Woods Series. So the knife and silicone scraper came out, and I used both liberally, mixing my paint with Liquin so it would be juicy. The result feels more like the woods, in all its controlled chaos.

For the Love of Snow

TM8862 White Mountain WInter #1 6x6 oil on paper

TM8862 White Mountain WInter #1 6×6 oil on paper

TM8864 White Mountain WInter #3 6x6 oil on paper

TM8864 White Mountain Winter #3 6×6 oil on paper

TM8863 White Mountain WInter #2 6x6 oil on paper

TM8863 White Mountain WInter #2 6×6 oil on paper

TM8852 Snowfall at Purgatory Chasm 6x6 oil on paper

TM8852 Snowfall at Purgatory Chasm 6×6 oil on paper

TM8851 Roadside Snow 6x6 oil on paper

TM8851 Roadside Snow 6×6 oil on paper

I understand it’s early November, and I’m glad it’s raining outside, but I love painting snow. All those white patterns abstracting the landscape beg to become a composition. This week I visited my imaginary winter and played with scenes from a few favorite locations. A private vacation, if you please, achieved in the studio. Enjoy.

A group of eight new 6×6 oil on paper paintings were delivered to Greylock Gallery in Williamstown, Massachusetts this week. If you are in the area, stop by, or preview Greylock Gallery’s website with the link to the right.

New England Woods

 

Every day exploring New England is a gift, especially the opportunity to paint rock walls in the woods. The four small paintings above depict “regular” days, nothing special happening, just the confluence of light, nature, fresh air, and paint. Enjoy.

Technical painting notes: Again, I used textured and smooth papers. The first two paintings are on textured paper, and you can feel how the texture informs the feel of the rock surfaces. The last two paintings are on smoother paper.

Love that Ledge

I can’t help it – those looming grey granite surprises in the woods always add excitement to a hike and a composition. The collection of woodland paintings below all feature wonderful hard rock in contrast with the delicate trees. It’s a yin/yang thing. Enjoy.

Looking for a way in….

The woods around me are not ancient. The land was primarily farmland until the early twentieth century, so the trees can be quite young, saplings really, stretching and dancing in the sun and breeze. Even in the more mature woods, the going can still be tough as there are thickets, swamps, and poison ivy to avoid. I’ve been thinking about the density of it all – how to paint it. These small paintings are studies of density and thickets, places where the way in is missing.

Technical painting notes: I’ve been trying different rag papers, some with a shellac primer and some with an acrylic gesso primer, trying to see how the texture of the primer and the paper affects the look of the painting. The brushmarks from the gesso can be interesting when they show through, but the surface is more slick and the paint slides around (this does allow for some nice “skips”). The shellac primer disappears into the paper, allowing the paper to grip the paint. While I prefer the smoother papers, a cold press watercolor paper does enhance the textural possibilities – even if it is aggressive.