Painting End of Spring

Novelist Christy Ann Conlin loves her some Flannery O’Conner! Southern Gothic may not only influence this author’s writing (Heave & Deadtime) but also her photography as evidenced from her shot of a dead robin on a shovel which she so kindly let me paint. It’s the beauty in the ephemeral fleeting nature of life that makes this melancholic image so poignant for me.

Here’s my process of rendering her photo, Sadness of a Gothic Bird, into my oil painting, End of Spring.

End of Spring in progress 1 Marie Cameron 2013

First I blocked in the negative space of the shovel.

End of Spring in progress 2 Marie Cameron 2013

I sketched in a loose grid with thinned oils allowing me to sketch the outline of the bird more accurately.

End of Spring in progress 3 Marie Cameron 2013

I wiped off the grid with a rag damped with mineral spirits so the lines would not show through.


End of Spring in progress 4 Marie Cameron 2013

Using loose washes of paint mixed with lots of mineral spirits and linseed oil I let the pigment drip and spread naturally.

End of Spring in progress 5 Marie Cameron 2013

I used the damp rag once more to pat and wipe the surface for texture. Great technique for pavement and rust!

End of Spring in progress 6 Marie Cameron 2013

More of the same.

End of Spring in progress 7 Marie Cameron 2013

Impatient to start working on the bird I started to block in it’s base colors. In retrospect it would have been more efficient to complete the background completely then overlap the shovel then finish the bird but there is something to be said for the integrity of working the whole at once too.

End of Spring in progress 8 Marie Cameron 2013

As the base is completed I’m starting to explore some of the details.

End of Spring in progress 9 Marie Cameron 2013

I return my attention to the shovel, wanting to achieve a glowing, almost halo effect aganst the dark backdrop.

End of Spring in progress 9 Marie Cameron 2013

Time to bring the bird to life, or as close as possible as though it has just stopped breathing. In this case it’s all about the realism, the deep careful observation of detail. This comes from the stillness of death, in life there would be an impression only.

End of Spring Marie Cameron 2013 40x30 oil on canvas

Dotting the (i)s and crossing the (t)s. In this case it was paying attention to the transition of pavement to shovel to make sure the shovel appeared to be hovering over the pavement instead of appearing as though the pavement was painted around the shovel.
Get out the camera again Christy Ann, I’ll paint ’em and fast as you can shoot ’em!


For more on Christy Ann Conlin’s compelling “Rural Goth”, click on her books below. FWI, I took the photo of the crumbling porch on the jacket cover of Heave. It’s so inspiring when friends share an aesthetic!

Heave by Christy Ann Conlin Dead Time  by Christy Ann Conlin

Day in the Studio

Marie Cameron Studio With Iridescent Cobwebs 2013

My studio as the wisteria would see it, the air laced with iridescent cobwebs.

Today was a perfect day, iridescent spider webs trailing from the skies and across my face on the way to work. The air was heavily scented with wisteria and lilac, all flooding through the open windows of my studio, mixing with the smell of linseed oil. NPR was talking about the secret lives of cats as seen though mini cat cams and I was finishing up a painting that my son has named End of Spring.  I was taken with the melancholy beauty of this image when I first saw this photo by my multi-talented friend and novelist Christy Ann Conlin. She was generous to let me use it for a painting and although I should be prepping for Open Studio I’m so glad I dropped everything to do it. I love how this dead robin lying on a shovel transcends its profane circumstance and is elevated, literally and figuratively, to a vantage where we can experience a moment of wonderment at its life.

White Wisteria 2013

Wisteria sinensis “Alba” I wait for it all year long.

Sensation Lilac 2013

Syringa vulgaris ‘Sensation’, a twist on a childhood favorite grows beneath my studio windows.

Marie Cameron painting End of Spring 2013

Finishing up End of Spring.

End of Spring Marie Cameron with feathers 2013

Examining real feathers.