Early in September I went out with my gear and found another local beauty spot. It was really hot that day! I was glad to find a bit of shade to set up in. The challenge as usual with plein air painting was to catch the light quickly – as well as the colour of the water and the shapes and locations of the clouds before everything changes. The result is less detailed but fresher and more dynamic than working from a photo.
Here is Tom’s poem which at first seems to be for another scene but wait for it – the final couplet tells the tale.
In summer gales these waters roil as wind and tide and waves contend for who shall make the sailor’s toil the worst. And who shall best unmend the flapping canvas, spliced up rope, a bimini not made to cope with gusts that come from angles all around the compass. Masts might fall as waves come in from every point. The bow is bounced, the stern is slewed, the sky with clouds ascudding’s strewed as the sea tests every joint. But in the calm it lies serene as if those storms were never seen!
Having bought some sunflowers at the market back at the end of August, I had to paint them of course. I decided to use extra thick and juicy brushstrokes a la Van Gogh. Sunflowers just seem to want that approach.
Tom wrote a haiku that gets to the heart of the painting in so few words.
transient fires burn triumvirate of blossoms brighten summer days
I have been playing with more abstract (and abstract adjacent) painting this year. This one was built up over many layers ending up somewhere between impressionism and abstraction. At some point in the process, the moon appeared in the sky and stayed. The feeling was quite dreamy and more subtle than this photo shows but I can’t get another because it sold quickly.
Tom wrote a delightful sonnet with a rhythm of anapestic tetrameter (like Dr. Seuss) which really suits the mood of the painting.
The farmer’s abed and the Moon is reborn so we’ll dance and we’ll sing from the eve until morn when we’ll lie down exhausted and sleep through the day. In the shadows of grasses and flowers we will lay until the soft darkness ensilvered by stars creeps out of the gloaming and brings us awake to drink from the dew by the light of bright Mars and sip the sweet nectar of flowers ’til we slake our thirst and our hunger. Our bodies adorned with trews made of petals, so silken and gay we’ll jig to a hornpipe like England’s old tars who served that old pirate, Sir Francis the Drake. For we are the Fairest of Folk in this land obeying no law but the bright Moon’s command.
I have been continuing experimentation with abstracts both in acrylics and oils. Because acrylics dry so quickly, I can build up many, many layers in a shorter time than oils. As a result, I tend to keep going for even more layers building up, scraping away, and making decisions about what stays and what gets painted over. It’s an evolution over two or more weeks for these. So different from my alla prima oils! Anyway, this one started off very different but ended up with (for me) an under the sea feeling. Others will no doubt see other things.
Tom’s poetic take on it is similar but goes back …well, to the beginning.
Bubbles burning up the fecund deep,
champagne reef a-swirl with venting gas,
primordial and proto quickly meet:
proto-cell and protoplasm fast
entangled in the ancient ocean depths
where chemistry and magic both combined
into something new, a broom that swept
the world with pulsing, growing, greasy slime
whose cells are now ancestral to us all,
whose origins are lost in bubbly chaos,
whose evolution made it great and small,
whose imperfections still come back to slay us.
We all began in beauty, vibrant, dark…
Partaking of that lost and vital spark.
Wow – what a long beautiful summer evening that was! I painted this en plein air from the deck of our sailboat just a couple of days off the solstice. I thought I would get some wonderful sunset colours but I would have had to wait longer than I felt like. Anyway, the subtle tones are lovely too, I think.
Tom wrote a haiku with an appropriately Zen feeling for this one!
ten thousand years hence
this long summer evening light
will still be here now
This was painted plein air and alla prima. I took my gear to a local park and carried it down to the beach, setting up looking across the shallows towards Entrance Island with its lighthouse, and the mainland mountains beyond. The sky was also cooperating with some lovely mauve and creamy clouds. So beautiful here… Happy to say someone who saw me painting it while walking their dog bought this piece!
Tom wrote a poem that goes with this painting but also speaks deeply to the feeling of living here, I think.
There is a place where light and water touch
Where distance is illusion and the truth
Swirls the summer clouds.
There is a place where one might hear a note
From orchestras not strictly of this Earth
Echo off the rocks.
There is a place where time itself is still
and waves reflect the motion of the wind
as silent eagles soar.
This painting was built up in many layers working daily over about two weeks. It looks nothing like its early iterations transforming quite radically from what I thought I was painting at first. The title comes from the subtle figure in the middle of the painting which I didn’t even see until I had decided the painting was finished. I have never painted anything like this before – it was fascinating to see it emerge.
Tom wrote a poem for this piece that transcends and enriches the painting. Thank you.
I am the whisper that you do not hear
I am a ripple through the summer leaves
Too close to see because I’m standing near
Too far to touch my simple floral sleeve
Now come with me upon a journey outward
Now come with me to where you’ve never been
Soft breezes quiver as you look to windward
Soft breezes waft a scent that is not seen
I’m all around you walking on the surface
I’m all there is and all there’ll ever be
There is no way to show you my true purpose
There is no way for you to not be free
I am the voice of thunder and of flame
I am the sacred utterance of my name
Tom says references for this poem include: a gnostic poem called “Thunder, Perfect Mind”, “The Waste Land” (what the thunder said, o you who look to windward…), and Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, image of touching the sleeve of a ghost to go on a journey.
I have been playing more with acrylics lately than I have for a long time. Feeling experimental! This peonies in a vase composition was painted from my imagination using lots of layering, mark-making and impasto – another piece that felt very freeing.
Tom’s haiku is a perfect accompaniment!
cut blossom glass vase
petals falling in the sun
lazy summer morn
Another abstract piece where I followed the flow of the paint and what the piece seemed to want. My title came to me as the painting was coming close to completion. I was getting the feeling of being hugged as a child by elderly great aunts – all talcum powder and feathers …I didn’t actually have any great aunts like that – just imagining them!
It was really interesting to see how radically different Tom’s vision of the painting is. It’s a reminder how much variation there can be in what people see in abstract paintings.
staccato atmospheric draws
along the stormy front
clouds reach out with questing paws
tornadoes kick with blunt
hard feet of air the hunkered ground
that rises in response
striking back with lightning bound
in power strong it flaunts
its permanence despite the storm
that claws its native soil
for earth abides though it be torn
so patient in its toil