More wildlife in the garden – and in my paintings for 2020. Spinus tristis makes a tsee-tsi-tsi-tsit call in flight as they bounce around the garden from seed stalk to thistle head. While the female is on the nest she calls to her returning mate with a soft continuous teeteeteeteete sound, which we hear a great deal during early summer. The roses in this painting are from an unidentified plant that was a gift from a friend in southern Maine. It blooms once, gloriously, in early summer and has proved hardy in its little untended corner of the lower garden for twenty years.
The working title for my series of paintings in 2020 is “In the Garden” and will highlight the many and varied creatures that live and visit the space outside my studio.
I’ve been working to improve habitats for creatures in and around the garden beds. Amphibians, reptiles, and songbirds are all at risk worldwide and I have the advantage of excellent raw material in two acres of freshwater marsh and a harsh climate that resists invasives and favors native species. I have compositions planned to include our three local frog species: grey, tree, and spring peeper, multiple woodpeckers, the ducks and geese that stop here on their way through the spring and fall migrations, and the domestics that wander through on a lovely summer morning, like my neighbor’s Black Leghorn rooster, below.
This piece started with an underpainting of large tonal areas – a new technique for me this year. The underlying structure allows more freedom in the top layer to depict the complicated surfaces and textures of the creatures that will join the flowers in future paintings. Onward to “Roses with Goldfinch” in the studio!
Still life painting of bouquet with botanical print by Dutch artist Gerald van Spaendonck as background, 24 x 36 inches, oil on panel.
Spaendonck was a Flemish painter and engraver who brought the traditions of Flemish flower painting to Paris. Prior to this he had studied with studied under the decorative painter Guillaume-Jacques Herreyns in Antwerp in the 1760s. Studying his work has been very instructive in adding to my palette.
The definition of a pattern is a discernible regularity. I’m working out what that means in terms of petals around a central disc, stems in a vase, and natural forms stylized using mathematical models to repeat seamlessly, such as wallpapers and textiles.
William Morris created a way of life through pattern: in ornament, textiles, product design, writing, and political activism. I was interested in the rigorous complexity as a backdrop to the riot of random color of the flame azalea branches.
The Strawberry Thief, 24 x 18, oil on panel
I’m involved in a series of diptychs; an exploration of overlapping images with a contiguous background and subject matter. What that means in practice is that, while I draw up both panels together, one half is actually painted before the other is started. It’s great for my color discipline as the lighting and hue of both panels was originally the same but it might be a month before I start on the second image. Here’s the left side of the current set – the right panel is still in progress.
Teapot marked MIJ c 1928 with 4th Century Moorish textile, Museum no. IS. 96-1993, © Victoria and Albert Museum, detail
I’ve been experimenting with twin panels of overlapping arrangements. Diptychs are the art historian’s version of a chapter book, one view leading to another and sharing the overlap.
Here, alpine poppies, margarite daisies, cosmos, marigolds and woad spill out of 50’s vintage vases in morning light.
Poppies and Margarites, 36 x 48 on two panels, oil on archival board
The first flower collection for 2018, many more to follow!
Snowberry Branches in a Tan Vase, 36 x 24, oil on panel
The native Symphoricarpos, commonly known as the snowberry, waxberry, or ghostberry, is a small genus of about 15 species of deciduousshrubs in the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae. Most of the species are native to the eastern and midcoast of the US. In our yard the birds descend on the berries when they’ve turned soft and brown after a hard frost.
Snowberry Branches, detail
The garden is dark and cold, time to move the harvest into the studio.
Coates willow charcoal on panel, 24 x 18.