Monthly Archives: February 2013

Winter Garden: A Painting’s Progress

winter garden - copyright 2013 michaela harlowWinter Garden ⓒ 2013 Michaela Harlow – Oil on Panel, 24″ x 24″

Winter is a beautiful season, to be certain. Snow, sleet and freezing rain add texture and sparkle to the skeletal landscape and garden surrounding my studio. I love the play of pale light as it bounces off ice and streams through the tawny blades of bleached grass and bare, twisted twigs. And yet for all of its wonder, winter is also a very difficult season here.

Living in New England during the winter months of January, February and March involves an extraordinary amount of work; particularly if you live atop a windy, 2,000′ ridge in the middle of a forest. Since Nemo, aka the blizzard of ’13, hit —bringing with it 18″ of new snow— my days have been consumed by shoveling, plowing, and moving snow banks with the tractor. These are necessary chores, of course, but terribly disrupting to my work; throwing off my rhythm and interrupting my painting’s progress and blog-posting schedule.

But here I am again, at last. It feels good to get back to work on something substantial.

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Rose Light

Rose Light  ⓒ 2013 Michaela Harlow - Oil on Panel - 16 x 16 inchesRose Light ⓒ 2013 Michaela Harlow – 16″ x 16″, Oil on Floating Wood Panel

Sometimes the only color to be found in a February landscape, is the blushing sky at dusk and dawn. Perhaps it is because the weary canvas of brown and white can seem so bleak, I am particularly grateful for the rosy hues of sunrise on a winter morning.

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Switching Gears & The Sweet Smell of Turpentine

1 - the smell of turpentine It always feels a bit odd, putting away the dry media, sweeping, mopping and pulling out the oil paints. But if you are an artist yourself, you know that these two things —pastel dust and wet oil paint— are absolutely incompatible. And so —because there is but one work room to my studio—the shift must be absolutely complete. It’s difficult to downshift after the pace of thirty-in-thirty, and yet it’s necessary to slow things down and stretch things out. I always wonder if I will be able to make a smooth transition.

But as soon as I open the turpentine, a magical thing happens. What is it, exactly, about that smell? I can’t put my finger on it, but just the slightest whiff fills me with longing and desire. It makes me want to lock the door, switch off the phone, turn the music up loud, and just paint.

2 - the smell of turpentineOf course, the process is entirely different with oil painting. Things dry slowly, so there’s a considerable time commitment involved. Multiple paintings —usually in series— are always in progress at the same time. There are washes drying, oil bars out for sketching and secondary layers of thick paint being applied. Dry layers are being scraped, scratched and sanded back to reveal drawings or sheer, luminous under paintings. Other parts are waiting to be slapped, smacked or gently brushed into existence. It’s bound to be a wonderful, unpredictable journey…
3 - the smell of turpentine 4 - the smell of turpentineAll photos are oil paintings —on gessoed wood panel— in progress

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