The View from Here

A Few New Pebble Paintings…
January 28, 2010, 3:37 pm
Filed under: Art News

My last few paintings haven’t had a single bird or animal in them. No, it isn’t an effect of not finding Ivory-Bills. You might say it’s the abstract artist in me trying to break out. For several years, I’ve been doing paintings of the pebbles we see on northern Michigan beaches.  They are the closest I seem to be able to come to doing an abstract. However, the realist in me keeps the pebbles authentic. I want to be able to tell if it is sandstone or granite.

"Red Sandstone Pebble" 16" x 20" Acrylic on panel

I like paintings with stories, and these stones have their own to tell.  Formed 2.5 billion years ago as part of the earth’s crust called Canada, they were carried to the south shore of Lake Superior just a couple of tens of thousands of years ago. They emerge from the glacial drift already rounded by their journey, and are further polished by the sand and surf.   Granites, schists, agate, basalt, and others mix with the local sandstone bedrock.

"Striped Granites" 24" x 36" Acrylic on canvas

I like the challenge of reproducing the grain, texture and colors of these complex igneous and metamorphic rocks. Unlike sedimentary rocks which seem to be composed of ground up, homogenized minerals, these stones proudly display sizable crystal grains and veins of various types and colors. Sometimes the colors are amazing.

"Wet Granite Pebbles" 11" x 14" Acrylic on panel

The colors are mostly iron oxides forming reds, yellows and ochers, but you do find greens and blues from copper oxides, and the occasional purple amethyst.   Whatever the origins of the colors and forms, they seem to hold an endless fascination for me. I can sit for hours on the beach sifting through piles of pebbles, making little piles of treasures I find until biting flies or an impatient wife drive me away.  Doing these paintings is an extension of that same activity.

This is the first time I’ve tried some large canvases of stones (“Striped Granites”), and I really like the scale. It has the same impact on the wall as a large abstract, but it maintains my grasp on reality.  I’m thinking of working towards a show of my stone paintings, but some of these may slip away to collectors…


2 Comments so far
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Hi John…I really love your work and your realism. I also paint pebbles..come on over and have a look!

Comment by April Jarocka

Wonderful! I’ve always loved the sea and I am always picking up shells and stones. I paint a lot of seascapes but have reacently started a series of still lifes of shells. I too am fascinated by the variety of pattern and colour found in stones and shells.

Comment by Irene Butcher

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