Wetland Paintings

 The other morning was uncharacteristically bright for November and the little wetland that I pass on my walk dazzled in the bright sun.  Mist rising from the water had frozen on some of the tangled dead vegetation giving the place an aura of magic.

Another magical time at the wetland  also comes late in the year, when most color and life has drained from the wetland plants, and the vegetation dies back.  Sometimes the setting sun slips out from under leaden clouds and washes the wetland with an intense amber light.giving new vitality to all that seemed dead.  This new vitality fills the heart.

Currently I’m framing up a series of paintings about this transformation.   These paintings are made with acrylic ink on Yupo paper.  Yupo is not actually paper, but a plastic sheet designed for watercolors.  Paints slide around on the surface, obeying the rules of fluids and offering some delicious results.  Painting on Yupo is a dance between brush and surface.  It’s a jazz improvisation .The trick is to notice when you’ve been given a gift and then stop.

Amber Time 3 by Johanne Renbeck

Amber Time 5 by Johanne Renbeck


I’ve been writing about the Amber Time for an artist book I’m making and it has occurred to me that my practice of writing and painting is similar.  For both I begin with a moment of wonder, with many phrases and observations in mind, but in the process of composition I scrub out the superfluous, the extraneous, all the while keeping watch for the truest evocation of the subject to emerge.

Late sun floods the
darkened stems,
the once lithe sedges
bleached and broken.

Amber sun fixes
in resinous memory
these tracings of the past
this calligraphy of release

Amber Time 3 by Johanne Renbeck

I count myself very fortunate to live near this patch of wildness.  Regardless of the season, the time of day, the tenor of the weather, when I stand on its verge, I am re-calibrated.  I am opened to transforming beauty and wonder.

Some pieces from the Amber Time series will be on exhibit at Gallery 66 NY in Cold Spring New York during December 2012.

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