Solar Mist

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I was thirteen years old. Just after dawn I followed a trail from our cabin down to the banks of the Meramec River.  As it rushed over its shallow gravel bed it made soft clattering sounds. In the pale ambient light a thick silver fog rose from the river, maybe only 4 feet high. I watched the early sunlight touch and brighten the top layer of the mist. I had come to fish.  A single smallmouth bass had taken my spoon lure and leapt from mist. He flashed a rainbow of bright colors.

This solar illuminated mist became a foundation memory for me. I wanted to genreate that experience in a picture of mine. I looked for examples of other painters who had earlier evoked that mysterious sun-infused fog. Living in St. Louis I found images in my city’s art museum. I found Monet’s work (example 1), and George Caleb Bingham’s atmospheric river paintings. Later when I moved to New York I found solar fog in the works of Turner (example 2) and others.

Example 1. Monet, Charing Cross, 1906,

Example 2. J.M.W. Turner, Norham Castle, 1845,

I looked for even earlier examples. The paintings were more linear and less atmospheric the further back I went.  I found the stirrings of atmospheric landscape in the late works of Titian (example 3) from the 16th century. And those few landscapes of Rembrandt also provided exciting examples.

Example 3. A detail from a landscape from Titian’s workshop. This form would later be borrowed by others like Rembrandt.

My pursuit of the solar infused fog has brought me to these following recent examples of my work. The first image which is still in process has been divided into three steps. Example 4, step one shows an older painting which I chose to use as the substrate for the painting. This substrate had qualities which I thought might enrich my new work. Example 5, step two shows my lay-in and initial over-painting of step 1. Example 6, step three shows the work in its current state. Note my use of bright glare on distant rocks as well as in the water’s reflections.

Example 4. Step one, the substrate for “River Bend”,

Example 5. Step two, the lay-in and over-painting of “River Bend”

Example 6, Step three, present state of the painting. Note how I have selectively removed slivers of the top layer of paint to reveal colors and textures of the substrate.

My final two examples both show the obscuring effects of mist saturated sunlight. We look into uncertainty and project or fill-in information which is not delineated. This is the beholder’s share. This filling in of occluded areas is a natural perceptual process. Example 7 presents a solar infused low layer of mist glowing on top of the distant edge of the pond. In example 8 note that the entire surface with a few localized exceptions has been dusted by atmosphere.

Example 7.  Pond Lights, oil on white Dibond,

Example 8. Spring Stream, oil on white Dibond, in process,

I invite you to join me for 3 day intensive workshop at the Silvermine School of Art in April.  I think there is one opening left. Call the school at 203 966 6668 ext 2.

I also invite you to my workshop “Explore Spectacular Flowers and Nature” with David Dunlop on Saturday and Sunday , March 23 and 24th at Artsplace in Cheshire, Ct. at or call Joan or Karen at 203 272 2787.

You may also wish to join me at The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida for my workshop “Natural Wonders” May 17, 18, and 19. Demonstrations in watercolor oil, acrylic and mixed media. This is a studio workshop.  Call Sara Bass at 904 280 0614 ext 204 or register at

I invite you to my presentation “How Painting Evolves: 500 Years of Changing Purposes, Methods, Audiences, Sources, Materials, Tools Themes and Techniques” on Sunday, March 10 from 4:30-6:30 PM, $20. At the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, Ct. call 203 966 6668 ext 2 or visit






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