Saturday, May 31, 2014


There are a few things an artist needs to know before trekking out in the New England woods.  Ticks in particular.   Spring walks are best, and then on cool days, because covering up is important.  Or, as in my case, I just do a thorough once over when the walk is over.

Spring Walk

Out for an early Spring walk today in the woods and along the Connecticut River.  Out of hundreds of reference photos I can’t quite find what I’m looking for so out to take more photos!  Plenty of precipitation this year.  Here are some photos of ground water making its way down the hill, through what I believe is banded gneiss or schist, on its way to the Connecticut River right across the road.

Surprise in a tree

A hazard for birds who choose to nest in garden centers and nurseries is the occasional nest built in a plant for sale!  Today I finished planting seven Green Giant Thujas.  As I nestled one plant into its new hole in the ground out popped a small grey-green frog before retreating back towards the trunk – a perfect perch from which to survey its new home.  After planting the last tree we found two tiny House Sparrow eggs broken in the bed of the truck.  Fortunately they were not formed, but were yolks inside very fragile egg shells.  Rushing back to the tree we found deep inside the dense center a beautifully woven and crafted nest.  The nest was a very deep and thickly woven mass of twigs, leaves larger than the sparrow itself, grasses, a tiny piece of shiny clear plastic for decoration.  What looked like the final touch was an amazing bit of architecture topping off the nest – an awning or umbrella!  A fairly good-sized whole oak leaf, many times bigger than the sparrow architect, was securely anchored at each end as part of the weaving and positioned as a perfect awning over the nest.  I did what any self-respecting lover of birds would do – I rushed back to the nursery and returned the nest.  They helped me find a location near where it had been, but  this time in a crab apple tree that was firmly anchored in the ground and not for sale.
Gray Catbird Nest, oil on canvas, 14 x 11 inches

Reference Photos


It started by looking into the water.  What I found wasn’t what I expected.  I admit I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but what I saw interested me a great deal.  So I began a series of paintings that looks at what’s under the water, what’s on top of the water, and what’s reflected on the surface from above and out of view.  It only came into view slowly!

Here are two paintings that evolved from the same reference photo above:

 1.  Reflections: Triple Vision

1.  Reflections: Triple Vision
Above is the initial underpainting after several layers and with white chalk sketch for placement of leaves.



Building up layers of more underpainting and highlights in the above version and eventually lights/darks and shadows.
The finished painting:
Reflections: Triple Vision, oil on cradled panel, 18 x 24 inches

2. Same reference photo, but cropped to a different area:

Initial underpainting below shows areas reserved for rocks above and below the water (no masking used, just tonal variation).  In the second painting I’m beginning to develop shape, shadow and objects above and below the water.

Reflections: Last Melt   is a composite of a number of reference photos: