Hibiscus is one of the last perennials to “wake up” every spring in the Maine garden, but is reliably, improbably, hardy in zone 5. Come September the flowers glow like torches lit against the dark maroon foliage. An autumn morning cloudy sky and apple branches add to the illusion that the papery flowers, beloved of Kali, are lit from within.
Hibiscus #1, 36 x 24, oil on panel
A new piece that explores my new ideal of representing plants surrounded by both their environment and compatriots; a group portrait as if Rembrandt’s Night Watch were tall herbs assembling on the garden path in all their finery.
Elecampne on the Garden Path, oil on panel, 36 x 24
An old friend in Portland gifted us with a piece of an old rose that grew in his father’s back yard. Hardy and sweet, it blooms once in midsummer on stems that arch nearly 10′, loaded down with pink blossoms and silvery foliage.
Morning Rose, 24 x 18, oil on panel
Morning Rose, detail
The days are just packed, as Calvin used to say to Hobbs. I have posts nearly ready to go about the Island-wide story slam, a recipe for arroz con/sin pollo in the wood oven, and a lecture on waffle gardening that I gave to the Castine Scientific Society last Tuesday. Meanwhile, I’ve been working my way through the first complete iteration of my “still life in situ” project with this painting of a honeysuckle vine framed by purple Matronalis.
This planting is in the dooryard, and I see it every morning as I leave the house in all kinds of weather and times of day. I want my paintings to represent something familiar and well known: plants that I’ve tended, pruned, picked for bouquets and appreciated in place. The time of day and season has become increasingly important to me. I felt my previous still life compositions with vases and drapery had very little atmosphere. The morning light here provides context, and the blooms and foliage represent a particular stage of their growth and decay, which has long been a prime characteristic of still life painting.
Honeysuckle and Dame’s Rocket, 36 x 24, oil on panel
And a detail, now with hummingbird!
My last still life in a vase for a while, this piece was in progress before I started my current project of creating compositions directly from the garden.
My homage to Klimt: Centura and Viburnum on a Gilt Cloth, 36 x 24, oil on panel. And a detail:
Summer is a busy time. There have been weekends off-island (sometimes on another island), hours spent in the garden, long days spent at work, and lots and lots of holiday traffic. Somehow, I eked out enough studio time to complete the Blackberry Branches painting, and it’s probably my largest and most complex piece to date: 36 x 24 inches, oil on panel.
And some details:
Now, on to a landscape from a sketching trip down to Bernard, on the very tip of MDI. Looking forward to a little more focal length in this one!
Sometimes I just want to paint structure and there’s nothing like a glass jar buttressed stems, leathery leaves and huge, recurved thorns to work out that urge. These blackberry bushes grow uncultivated along the edge of our gravel road but the blossoms are huge, white and surprisingly delicate for living on nothing but dust and neglect.
Blackberries and Cherries, drawing in progress, vine charcoal on gessoed panel, 40 x 32
So much is happening in the garden: two new hives of bees, new bee fodder (phacelia!), new green manure mixtures, and a foray into next-gen gardening with Bio-Char. I want to write about all of it but there’s still life material growing out there too. The Ruby-Gold ornamental quince put out flowering branches for the first time this year; combined with a new thrift store tablecloth it made an excellent color study.
Quince in a Tan Vase, 24 x 18, oil on panel
Three weeks ago I looked out on the ocean of yellow “lion’s-tooth” flowers in our front yard and thought, I ought to paint some of those. This is the study, but there will be more (MANY MORE) coming soon.
Dandelions in a Blue Glass, oil on panel, 20 x 16
Every year the Land and Garden Preserve, keeper of some of the most beautiful properties on our beautiful island, solicits pieces from local artists for a fundraiser in late summer. The 2015 event will be July 30 – August 1 at the Asticou Inn, Northeast Harbor, Maine. I had the opportunity to paint inside Thuja Lodge over the course of several afternoons in September with some of their lovely still life objects on display.
The Dutch Shelves, Thuja Lodge – oil on panel
Here’s a detail of the view to the kitchen: