Sunday, June 2, 2019

Rhododendron In Progress

Rhododendron, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
The complexity of the color and intricacy of the shapes makes this a challenging yet fulfilling process.  It's very slow going as I await the time in which I can go in and push the contrast enough to bring out the separate blossom forms.  


Osprey, 2019, Oil on Board, 16"x20"
We have 2 pair of Osprey nesting on our marsh. It appears the female is still incubating as she never leaves the nest.  This male is approaching the nest with wings raised and calling.  Early in March, he is building the next in anticipation of the female's arrival. Ospreys require nest sites in open surroundings for easy approach, with a wide, sturdy base and safety from ground predators (such as raccoons). Nests are usually built on snags, treetops, or crotches between large branches and trunks; Our nests are 1) on a man-made platform and 2) atop a telephone pole.  Osprey nests are built of sticks and lined with bark, sod, grasses, vines, algae, or flotsam and jetsam. However, they will use anything they feel workable.  We've seen examples of a barbie doll and a golf putter in nests.  The nest on our man-made platform is susceptible to high winter winds and never reaches the breadth and depth of long standing nests which can reach 10–13 feet deep and 3–6 feet in diameter.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Works in Progress: Update

 Osprey, Oil on board, 16"x20"                                                     Rhododendron, Oil on Board, 8"x8"         
I'm currently working on three pieces, the Blue Jay posting from yesterday and the above two. One advantage to working on pieces simultaneously is to allow time for drying.  I really need to rest my hand upon the board for steadiness.  This works much better if the oils are dry. Also my layers are fairly transparent and need complete dryness to apply the next layer.  Two days ago I worked the left wing area of the Osprey.  Yesterday I worked the right side of the rhododendron.  The approach also helps with the tedium of working so tightly by switching subjects and the palette.  

Blue Jay Work in Progress

Blue Jay, Oil on Board, 10"x8"
I began throwing peanuts out a few years ago to attract the crows.  Eventually the Jays showed up and the crows disappeared.  I scatter the unshelled peanuts in an area adjacent to the marsh and below our decks.  As I walk to the area the Jays are waiting in the trees and begin to call "peanuts!  peanuts!".  They are a beautiful but aggressive bird.  This view will not show the variety of blue in the back and tail feathers.  But, I likes the pose and expression.  

Monday, May 13, 2019

Rhododendrons In Progress

Rhododendron, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
The Heritage Museum and Gardens in Sandwich, MA offers over 100 acres of gardens, the largest public garden in Southern New England.  I try to visit each spring during the rhododendron show to photograph. Charles Dexter was the original owner of the acreage.  He collected rhododendrons from around the world and combined them into new cultivars. The plant here is one of his cultivars known as Scintillation.  The flower clusters are 8-10" across. It has a subtle pink color with shades of yellow.  The shadows created by the strong light give the color a cooler violet appearance.  

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Osprey in Progress

Osprey, Oil on Board, 16"x20"

We can see two pairs of nesting Osprey from our house.  The  males return every year around St Patrick's day from their South American winter home. They begin to build the nest in preparation for the females arrival some two weeks later.  They have made a miraculous recovery from near extinction about 60 years ago due to pesticide poisons.  Led by Gil Fernandez, local naturalists helped save and bring back the Osprey by building platforms for nesting and cultivating the science that helped ban the worst pesticides.  I can stand directly below one of the nests and watch as the bird sores away in the thermals to distract me from the nest.  There was great drama this year when a bald eagle came into the area to fish.  Our four Osprey and 2 from a neighboring nest aggressively attack and drove off the eagle who certainly would have gone for the chicks. 

Monday, May 6, 2019


Hydrangea, 2019, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
Hydrangea: from Greek hydro - 'water' + angeion 'vessel' (from the cup shape of its seed capsule).  There are 5 main types of hydrangea in North America.  This type is commonly known as Mophead or French and is native to Japan.  The flower in this painting was not fully developed into the 'mop'.  I was more interested in the variation of bloom color at this early stage.  The almost white young petals had a green tint that was fun to mix.  Interestingly, this showy part of the flower is sterile.  

Balancing Baltimore Orioles

Balancing Act Baltimore Orioles, 2019, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
In an earlier post I mentioned that I might not oil in the ground.  In the end I did oil it.  There were areas that had been worked later and showed a difference in the surface that needed rectifying.  The Oriole on the left has a cheeky attitude that adds more interest to the narrative than the bird on the right.  It's important to not only find a position that shows the feathers but that creates a feeling of life and movement.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Baltimore Orioles Balancing Act

Baltimore Orioles Balancing Act, 2019, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
I have laid a transparent coating of Prussian blue over the ground.  The value is consistently dark across both grounds.  The surface is very flat and I am considering leaving it and only oiling out the birds and oranges.  

We still await the arrival of the Orioles.  The feeder is out and filled in anticipation of the arrival.  I know they are here by the sound of their call rather than the visual display of their plumage.  Follow this link to hear the distinct sound.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Baltimore Orioles Balancing Act

Baltimore Orioles, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
The act of indirect painting as indicated by the name, slows my progress.  But, the reveal of one color choice over another is a learning experience.  I've yet to learn how to use the technique throughout the entire painting beyond the ground.  The use of values to compose both the light source and the forms cheats with the indirect method.  Later that method will be ignored as I begin to directly paint into the oranges and Orioles.  

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Prickly Situation

                              Goldfinch with Thistle,  Oil on Board, 10"x8"

As part of the series that places the bird with its food source, I placed this American Goldfinch with a thistle.  Initially, the composition as seen on the left had a single thistle hanging as to be dried.  My in-house critic found this unintelligible.  Questions arose: does the space need to be identifiable?, should the depth of the space be clear?, is this surrealism? realism?  My decision was to add more thistle.  The image on the right shows the beginnings of this approach.  

Thistle is the common name of a group of flowering plants with sharp prickles all over the plant.  The prickles are an adaptation that protects the plants from herbivores. The varieties are vast, some considered beneficial for pollinators. The thistle is the national emblem of Scotland, land of my maternal heritage. According to a legend, an invading Norse Army was attempting to sneak up at night upon a Scottish army's encampment. During the attempt one barefoot N0rseman stepped upon a thistle, cried out in pain, thus alerting the Scots. The spear thistle, presented here with the Goldfinch, is considered the likely thistle the Norseman stepped on.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Fertility, Pomegranate

Pomegranate, 2019, Oil on Board, 10"x10"
The uncertainty in this piece lies in the scale of the pomegranate.  They are in fact larger than life size.  This alone would not seem problematic except for the small scale of the overall piece.  As such, the pomegranate seems out of scale or too large for its environment.  Also, the left half wants to float rather than sit.  
"There is no must in art because art is free." Wassily Kandinsky

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Synchronized Swimming Carolina Wren, 2019

Synchronized Swimming Carolina Wren, 2019, Oil on Board, 12"x24"
Toward the end the challenge here was to have reflections that did not compete with the line of wrens above the water yet offered a balance and realism to the idea. This was the first time I worked with indigo blue, now my new favorite go to color. Indigofera tinctorial, also called true indigo, is the plant from which indigo dye comes.  It is the dye used in denim for blue jeans.  The dye is not light fast, which is one of the plusses of use in jeans.  The Winsor paint however is a synthetic pigment and will not fade. In 1997 when the Shakespeare Globe theatre was reconstructed in London, Indigo was used to paint the heavens of the theatre. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Fertility a Work in Progress

Pomegranate, 2019, Oil on Board, 8"x10"
I've reconsidered the leathery skin color of the pomegranate halves.  There is still at least one more session on the skins.  Reds can be difficult to work with. When tinting they can become opaque and pink rather than a bright light red.  

Hera, 2014, Oil on Board, 24"x18"
Hera, the Greek Goddess and wife of Zeus, shares the pomegranate symbol with Persephone. Ancient images of Hera sometimes depict her with the pomegranate.  The ample and deep red seeds associate the pomegranate with fertility and blood.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Fertility a Work in Progress

Pomegranate, 2019, Oil on Board, 8"x10"
Initially I considered the pomegranate as a prop for a bird in much the same way I used the orange and Baltimore Orioles together.  Since, I wanted a natural relationship, my research found only parrots or the Arizona Verdin.  Neither appealed to me.  So, as it stands now I will give the pomegranate a solo performance.  

Throughout history pomegranates have been a symbol of prosperity and abundance.  Most notably in Greek mythology it symbolizes Persephone's time in hades. Images of Persephone show her holding 7 pomegranate seeds symbolizing her 7 months in hades and the northern hemisphere's 7 months of winter.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Synchronized Swimming, A Work in Progress

Synchronized Swimming, 2019, Oil on Board, 12"x24"
Upon returning to direct application of paint, I lightened the blue and eliminated the orange band behind the birds as I didn't feel there was adequate contrast.  

Cornell University's ornithology lab is a great resource of information about birds.  They say the following of the Carolina Wren. 
  • Unlike other wren species in its genus, only the male Carolina Wren sings the loud song. In other species, such as the Stripe-breasted Wren of Central America, both members of a pair sing together. The male and female sing different parts, and usually interweave their songs such that they sound like a single bird singing.
  • One captive male Carolina Wren sang nearly 3,000 times in a single day.
  • A pair bond may form between a male and a female at any time of the year, and the pair will stay together for life. Members of a pair stay together on their territory year-round, and forage and move around the territory together.
  • The oldest recorded Carolina Wren was at least 7 years, 8 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Florida in 2004. It had been banded in the same state in 1997.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Synchronized Swimming

Drawing Preps for Carolina Wren
As our winters have warmed, the Carolina Wren has been a frequent visitor to our Massachusetts backyard for several years.  I've had to discourage it from nesting in our kitchen window box.  It seemed happy enough to relocate to our shed.  But, because of the very harsh winters the past two years, they have not been around.  As the name indicates, they are a southern bird which are sensitive to cold weather. I'm hoping to see a return this spring.  The long, upward-cocked tail, the white eyebrow strip and the burnt sienna and ochre color rewards the eye.  Only the male sings, and with such glee and voracity. My planned composition is to position 10 of them across the bottom of the board where they will be reflected in a band of water. 
Oil on Board, 12"x24"
The board has begun with an application of blues and ochres.  I intend to apply transparent white over this base in another attempt at indirect painting.  The value should be lightened to a great degree.  Thankfully oils are very forgiving.  If all fails, direct painting it will be.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Chickadees on the High Wire

Chickadees on the High Wire

The Black-Capped Chickadee is a tiny little bird at about 5-6" long with a short neck and large head.  It is very acrobatic, can perch side-ways and upside down, and often does so on slender twigs and weedy stems.  I thought this behavior really lended itself to my "Birds in the Circus" series.  Thus, the little chickadee family became the high wire act in my series.  

The working approach here was to once again use the indirect approach to create the background and the direct method for the birds.  

Monday, February 4, 2019

North River, Marshfield

North River, Marshfield, MA, 2019 20"x20"

The ghost has been vanquished.  It was good to paint a bit larger and use my entire arm to apply paint, not just my fingers as the tiny bird paintings require.  I must give Emily Katherine credit for her photograph that provided a reference source for this painting.  She informs me that the exact location is behind the China Wok in Marshfield.  

Mary Oliver died last month.  Such a great artist's poet.  With respect and in recognition of her work, I post her poem, The River.

The river
Of my childhood,
That tumbled
Down a passage of rocks
And cut-work ferns,
Came here and there
To the swirl
And slowdown
Of a pool
And I say myself–
Oh, clearly–
As I knelt at one–
Then I saw myself
As if carried away,
As the river moved on.
Where have I gone?
Since then
I have looked and looked
For myself,
Not sure
Who I am, or where,
Or, more importantly, why.
It’s okay–
I have had a wonderful life.
Still, I ponder
Where that other is–
Where I landed,
What I thought, what I did,
What small or even maybe meaningful deeds
I might have accomplished
Among strangers,
Coming to them
As only a river can–
Touching every life it meets–

That endlessly kind, that enduring.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Ghost in North River

North River, 20"x20" Oil on Canvas
I'm noting this stage only because this photograph reveals the grasses that I painted out yesterday.  I don't see this in the original.  But, I'm thinking it will eventually reveal itself and must be painted over again.  Also, I've lightened the remaining foreground grasses.  

Monday, January 21, 2019

North River

North River, Marshfield, 2019 Oil on Canvas, 20"x20"
I removed the grasses in the center of the foreground.  I thought it would work better to lead the eye up and through the canvas to the horizon line if that space was opened.  Those remaining grasses need work.  Darker?  Lighter?  I might repeat the color of the ochre grasses in the background.  

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Work in Progress of North River

North River, 24" x 24", Oil on Canvas
The deep cold set in about 3 weeks ago.  Very few days and no nights have been above freezing.  As such, even the brackish and salt water are now freezing.  The North River in Marshfield, MA empties into Massachusetts Bay.  Parts of the River are a Mass Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary. It is primarily a habitat for striped bass and bluefish.  This painting references a photo by Emily Katherine taken in November when ice was just beginning to form. Work still remains in the foreground.