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.

Shining Rocks

Shining Rocks describes many places in New England that I love, but the inspiration for these small paintings in particular is Purgatory Chasm, a state park in Sutton, Massachusetts bordering the town where I was raised. The park is situated along a dramatic geological fault line. Rock formations line a natural gorge in the woods. The trees’ roots do their best to find sustenance in the scant soil covering granite and schist. Large quantities of mica and quartz sparkle in the sun. It is a remarkable place. The paintings below are explorations and studies. More will follow, as I refine my ability to “see” what’s there and figure out how I want to paint not just the place, but the spirit of the place too.


Technical painting notes: All of the paintings relied on a palette knife to describe the forms, with brushwork limited to sky and a few tree details. I wanted to capture the rough and tumble quality of the place, and the sense of surprise when the ground drops. Each painting starts with a rough, abstract base layer utilizing Liquin Impasto medium. A silicone scraper is used to suggest the trees. When this layer is dry, I go back in to define the sky and trees more thoroughly, again using Liquin Original and Liquin Impasto mediums. I’m looking for the major forms and colors, without too much detail, at this stage. My goal is to become familiar with the subject and figure out diverse ways to describe it – in service to starting some  larger paintings.