Camouflage With Density

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When Emma and Gerald Thayer were asked to help illustrate a zoological book call “Concealing Coloration in The Animal Kingdom” they accepted the challenge. Their particular quarry in 1900 was the Cottontail Rabbit. Their medium was watercolor and, they worked as a team. (Example 1). Their Cottontail was subtly imbedded in a profusion of fur and foliage.

Example 1, Emma and Gerald Thayer, Opaque watercolor, 1904,

This almost undecipherable profusion of foliage continued through the 20th century in a variety of media. Bill Nichols embeds a fallen log in a crazy quilt pattern of natural foliage (example 2) in watercolor.  Bill Richards renders dense minutiae in “Shadow Brook” in graphite in example 3. Neil Welliver offers another perplexing density in order to provide an experience of interior woodland which can only be perceived through a delicate summarization (example 4).

Example 2. Bill Nichols watercolor, “Log over Bradley Creek”,

Example 3. Bill Richards “Shadow Brook” in graphite,

Example 4. Neil Welliver, oil study for “Prospect” 1976,

In all of the previous images the subject dissolves into a rich matrix of textures where the eye must look closely for decisive edge information. One can become easily lost here by tracking the minutiae and not the collective effect which results from standing back and experiencing the unified body of marks.

This tradition of exploring an expressive profusion of flora invites close scrutiny by the viewer to avoid misreading and to identify the motif. Artists have pursued this model for thousands of years reaching back to Ancient Greeks. The profuse confusion of snakes on Medusa’s head distracts the explorer’s attention from his purpose.

In my next examples (5 through 9) exploit the Medusa Myth with her hair of snakes. Metaphorically you can perhaps feel the flora writhe and turn.  Example 4 presents step one of the painting “Summer Shore”.  Example 6 shows the present state of the painting. Here the Flora mounds and rises in a weaving of fronds.  The sky and shoreline give this weaving a context and opportunity for meaning.

Example 5. Summer Shore step one,

Example 6. Summer Shore step two, 36×36,

Examples 7 and 8 present “Summer Shoreline Flora”.  Here the flora tumbles to form a spidery armature to support the bulging biomorphic shape.

Example 7. Summer Shoreline Flora, step one,

Example 8. Summer Shoreline Flora, step two,

Examples 9 and 10 show a similar development for “Shore Reeds”.

Example 9. Shore Reeds, step one.

Example 10. Shore Reeds, step two, in its current far from finished state.

I wish to invite you to a variety of upcoming events. From August 27th through the 29th I am conducting a studio workshop on Nantucket Island. The workshop is offered through the Artists Association of Nantucket. ( see Adult Classes, Summer Classes at 508 228 9700,  When registering they can offer travel and housing suggestions.

On June 9th and 10th I am will conduct a plein air class  through the Lyme Art Association in Lyme Connecticut. See workshops  at

Currently I have an exhibition up at The Drawing Room Gallery on the Post Road in Cos Cob, Connecticut. Come and visit the gallery at 220 East Putnam Ave in Cost Cob opens Tuesday through Saturday at 9 AM..

3 Responses

  1. Zainab

    Hi david loved your work alot ,like to learn from you online, wants to learn shore reeds online .
    Thank you

  2. Nina Lemeeshevskaya

    Thank you,David. I am looking for a long time how you working and find new way of painting. I am interesting more in portrait and figure painting, but search can be the same. I remember your painting of old master, and late I started to look and copy of old master only with figures.I learn much more, than copy the same models in the same way. Thank you for giving to my opportunity to watch for your search and see how change your paintings.Also it give me possibility to analyze and change my attitude to my methods of working with paintings. I started to look for ways of different artists and sculptors, and read different books, and my knowledge became different. Thank you very much again for sharing with us

  3. Bonnie Brewer

    You are a master painter and art historian. Your work and teaching are an inspiration to me. Thank you, Bonnie Brewer

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