New work – Apples on a Yellow Cloth

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 and Zinnias

 

Apples on a Yellow Cloth, 24 x 36, oil on panel

New work – Acadian bouquet

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!

Acadia bouquet

 

Acadian Bouquet, 24 x 18 inches, oil on panel

Encaustics: warm work for cold days

Ecaustic paint is a mixture of pigment and beeswax, tempered with damar varnish and kept molten on a hot plate or griddle. Now that the temperature is dropping and snow is piling up on the studio stairs the thought of a cold November day spent leaning over warm dishes of fragrant wax is very tempting. My set-up consists of an electric pancake griddle, metal condiment dishes purchased in bulk from a restaurant supply store, and hog bristle brushes.

hot plate encaustic

I use a 1:10 part mix of bagged damar crystals melted into plain, unfiltered beeswax. The damar is available from most art supply stores – don’t use damar varnish because it contains solvents. Filtered, bleached, and cleaned beeswax is also available.  I use wax from my beehives and it’s VERY unfiltered so I do pick bees, sticks, and flower parts out of it occasionally.

You can purchase special encaustic painting surfaces but any sturdy, stable surface will do. Canvas and other fabric mounts will crack and peel when the wax hardens. This is an ancient technique and extremely durable when the surface is stable. Special paint and brushes are available, but honestly oil pigment (not more than 1:20) and regular bristle brushes work just as well. Make a place to rest your brushes on the heat source to melt the wax coating. Keep your fingers away from the metal ferrules – they will be very hot!

There are many detailed tutorials on the web on encaustic media. Most are very good on the basic steps but I’ve been disappointed in the imagery. Don’t assume that the wax somehow demands soft colors and undefined contours! This is the first in a series of bouquet paintings from Thuya Lodge, part of the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve on Mount Desert island. This piece will be available at their auction in 2015: Nasturtium in a Brown Vase, 16 x 12, encaustic media.

nasturiums-in-a-brown-vase

New work

It’s November, and the garden is gray and cold so it’s time to finish up all those paintings I started of roses back in July and August! This one is Königin von Danemark (Queen of Denmark), a Portland rose introduced in 1826. It blooms all season – in fact it would probably be blooming right now except that the deer got to it a few nights ago. Very sad, but stay tuned for updates on an improved electric fence mapping project.

Königin von Danemark

Roses in a Green Glass, 24 x 18, oil on panel.

New work

I spent a lovely week on Great Spruce Head Island a few years back and have sketchbooks, drawings, and photos that I’ve been working on ever since. The color swatches alone are enough to bring up detailed memories of the morning light on Penobscot Bay and thunderstorms on hot afternoons under the spruce trees. This is a study of the rock that ends Double Beaches like a punctuation mark, 12 x 16, oil on panel:

Double Beaches, GSHI

New work

I have a new mantra: Wait for Everything to be Dry, and a new policy on using mediums (linseed oil, etc.) in my paint: Don’t Use Any Medium, and a new slogan written on the wall of the studio in black marker: Really, Wait for It To Dry. This is the first piece I’ve finished with all the rules in place and I’m very pleased with it.

Red Flowers, White Pitcher

Red Flowers, White Pitcher. 24 x 18, oil on panel.

Up next, and Blagden Preserve landscape using the same constraints keeps life interesting. . .

New work, matching set

August in Maine is by turns bright and stormy, and always chock full of cars, camper vans, and people. We have family and friends visiting, phone calls and g-chat, and people in expensive cars from out-of-state pulling over to the side of the gravel road to ask about the garden and take pictures. All this will start to taper off after Labor Day and disappear entirely before Thanksgiving so I’ll take the crowds now as antidote to the barren landscape when it comes. Meanwhile, in the moments in between visitors, we paint.

This is the matching piece to last month’s small painting done in Frenchboro titled “Shade Trees”, 20 x 16, oil on panel. Both pieces are currently hanging at the Artemis Gallery in Northeast Harbor, and look lovely glowing under the good lights against the white walls there.

Frenchboro Harbor

 

New work, redux

There’s probably a label for the blogging disorder of allowing photos to lapse past their freshness date. . . I go out into the garden these days to gather visuals and am immediately distracted by ripe blueberries, carrots that should be pulled to make room for a second planting, and slugs in the zinnias. On the other hand, our new studio building is making it much easier to be disciplined about painting.

This painting of Frenchboro harbor is one of two that will be hung as a set at Artemis Gallery in Northeast Harbor for a show opening August 14. 20 x 16, oil on panel, finished last week – pic of its other half coming soon.

Frenchboro wharf August

New work from the Blagden Preserve

This site has been very, very good to me. . .something about the stacked layers of rocks and water going straight out to the horizon that is visually compelling. Right now in late June and just past the longest day it’s like a desert down there on the rocks, but I took a long hike along the shore on Mother’s Day when the snow still extended down to the water’s edge and made the start to this painting.

Blagden Preserve, Snow 1

By popular request, here are some details. . . the far reaches are under water at high tide and are covered in rockweed and barnacles, turning them a lovely warm sepia color even in the dead of winter.

Blagden Preserve, Snow detail 1

Detail of the rotten snow along the tide line:

Blagden Preserve, Snow detail 3

 

And finally, the drawing stage from the site. This is Ivory Black oil on a tinted board.

Blagden Preserve, Drawing detail

New(ish) work

I was down in the studio on this glorious Maine morning to clean and organize, and realized I’ve never posted a photo of “Clara’s Vase with Nasturtiums”. This vase is has been very difficult to merge with the softer forms of plants and drapery in past studies. I think my current experiment with Cezanne’s shorter, exploratory brushstrokes have given me more capacity for that type of change in substance.

Claras Vase Nasturtium

Clara’s Vase with Nasturtiums, 20 x 16, oil on panel