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
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!
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!
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
I think this is my last work done from drawings and site photos during summer 2014. I have months to go until the 2015 crop of glads comes in, but will spend that time doing studies of new glassware acquisitions and prepping for new varieties of cosmos as raw material. Meanwhile:
Glads in a Green Jar, oil on panel, 36 x 24
Posted in haste, there’s a lot to do today now that the sun is out! Time to unearth the gladiola bulbs from winter storage down cellar, clean them of last year’s soil and roots, and decide on a color planting arrangement for Garden 2015. I’m thinking those red ones, var. Palm Beach, should go near the front.
Glads in a Blue Jar, 36 x 24, oil on panel, and a detail:
Quince from the College of the Atlantic garden, and sage leaves from my plot there this summer, oil on panel, 24 x 36:
I’ve been slowly working up to larger paintings since we moved into the new studio last winter. The larger space is helpful but there are other factors as well, such as brush size, paint consistency, and composition. Fortunately all those very disparate things seem to be growing together. This new painting is the next standard size up: 24″ x 36″ and seemed like a whole new country after working on 18″ x 24″ panels for years. Now that I’m working on a few pieces this size I can hardly wait to move up to 48 x 72!
Apples on a Yellow Cloth, 24 x 36, oil on panel
A still life of all the flowers that grow along the paths and roadways on the island: mallow, borage, goatsbeard (Aruncus), echinecea, sage, and thistle. I’ve made myself a note not to try borage again for a while – it was incredibly difficult to make sense of in the drawing!
Acadian Bouquet, 24 x 18 inches, oil on panel