Before And After

Tulips (2012), Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 11x14

Tulips (2012), oil on canvas, 11×14

Tulips (2015), Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 11x14

Tulips (2015), oil on canvas, 11×14

SOMETIMES IT HELPS to revisit a painting. In the rush of creation several years ago I considered “Tulips” and “Mountain Stream” finished, but when I looked at them recently they struck me as pale and thin. They now have a thicker, more vibrant complexion, a bolder look more in keeping with their subjects.

I began “Tulips” in 2012. I have made several paintings of tulips, which is odd in a way, since I grow so few of them. In recent years I have come to think of them as annuals, needing to be planted every year to guarantee blooms. Otherwise, it seems that I always have fewer blooms in the second year, and they piddle down to nothing in subsequent seasons.

Tulips bring some of the first bright colors to the spring garden, though, in shades of red, purple, orange, and yellow unmatched in intensity by such other flowering bulbs as snowdrop, crocus, daffodil, or hyacinth. Like these, tulips have only modest foliage, but their flowers have elegant, upright shapes when closed, and unfold every morning to reveal delicate, lightly colored centers of pollen-rich seeds and stamens. They are particularly striking massed together.

“Mountain Stream,” from 2013, is one of several paintings inspired by my section hike on the Appalachian Trail from the New York state border through Connecticut and into southwestern Massachusetts in 2009 and 2010. I crossed and recrossed a dozen or more streams similar to this one during my several hikes, carved unobtrusively into the mountainsides but alive with movement in late-afternoon sun, massaging my ears with sound as they cascade over and around rocks and fallen logs, filling my nostrils with a complex perfume of wet moss and crushed fern, pine needles, rotting wood, and decaying leaves.

It should come as no surprise that these paintings resurface now. I am itching to see spring flowers, and to get back out on the trail.

Mountain Stream (2013), Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 11x14

Mountain Stream (2013), oil on canvas, 11×14

Mountain Stream (2015), Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 11x14

Mountain Stream (2015), oil on canvas, 11×14

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6 comments

  1. I think Mountain Stream is improved by your later visit to it, but I kind of like the first iteration of Tulips. I don’t think everything has to be bold. I like the way the colors recede and make us muse longer on the whole painting in the first painting of it. The second one is gorgeous but side by side I think the first one isn’t as “easy.”

    1. Thanks Damaris. Great feedback. I understand what you mean about the first ‘Tulips.’ I, too, liked its spontaneity and the subtle striations. It could simply be a phase of my development, but in person the paint just looked too thin to convey the sensuality of the flowers. As always, I appreciate your insights and comments!

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