Oil painting

After a September rain
12" x 16"
2016

We had a hot and dry spell through July and August that was more severe than any in memory. The drought broke with a big rain in September. The colors afterward were close to springlike, though with hues a bit more toward yellow than in April.

Foggy day, Essex Estuary
12" x 16"
2016

As of the the staff members at Crane Beach remarked to me, it's different every day.

Vernal pond, Crane Beach
12" x 16"
2016

It's curious trying to think about and capture the reality, as it meets the eye: landscapes are all background, without a lot of firm boundaries.

Paul Nordberg

Self portrait
16" x 20"
2016

A self-portrait was one of my first experiments in oils. While in many ways it is a good representation of me, I felt that it was time to try again. In this one, the paint was applied entirely with a palette knife. As the paint builds up in some areas, for instance around the eyes, the texture becomes three-dimensional – so that it is no longer possible to apply paint in a smooth layer. The surface becomes more textured, with the hues in small areas unintentionally taking on additive relationships, creating some interesting effects.

At the moment, at least, I feel that I have learned something in two years of painting. I wonder how I'll feel two years from now.

Homeless painting

Man on park bench, August
(Homeless & street people #1)
12" x 16"
2015

On a steamy late summer day, I happened across this man, clad in a fleece-lined jacket over two thick shirts, topped with a stocking cap. From a plastic bag of clothing and other paraphrenalia not shown in this picture, it was obvious that he was homeless. He had his jaw thrust forward, and his manner was marked by what I would later characterize as frustration.

It was not my intention at that moment to go looking for homeless people, but this finding struck me in a strong way. I have since become very interested in homeless persons – who, I find more and more, are persons of all kinds who have become homeless, for the short or long term. I expect to make an active project of this interest. You may expect to see more portraits here in the coming months.

Rainy day lunch,
Downtown Crossing subway station
(Homeless & street people #2)
12" x 16"
2015

I am struck with impressions of people engaged in the ordinary activities of daily life, here having lunch downtown with the trains going by.

In orange coat, smiling
Downtown Crossing subway station
(Homeless & street people #3)
12" x 16"
2016

This lady posed for a photograph for me. It is a very striking one.

Storm
Athens, Texas
16" x 12"
2015

Halibut Point State Park, Rockport

Abandoned granite quarry,
Halibut Point State Park,
Rockport
24" x 16"
2015

Cedar Park Alley, Beacon Hill
12" x 18"
2015

Salt marsh at Crane Beach, Ipswich
24" x 16"
2015

The road to Crane Beach & Reservation, a local cultural icon, is a familiar sight to most people from Ipswich and surrounding areas. The tide is high in this view, and the weather very windy. At low tide, the water would be little more of a presence than a few streams here and there, flowing through the reeds and grass.

I realized much after the fact (looking at Google images, of all things) that the palette is unintentionally quite like that of an abstract composition I had done a year before, which, curiously, was deliberately taken from a seascape of John Singer Sargent. If this particular correspondence was accidental, it does indeed reflect my hope and belief that abstract and representational art are not very far apart.

From the kitchen window, summer
24" x 18"
2015

Spring landscape, by Paul Nordberg

From the kitchen window, spring
24" x 18"
2015

From the kitchen window, winter
24" x 18"
2015

Autumn landscape

From the kitchen window, autumn
24" x 18"
2017

This is a later, and I think much better, painting, here replacing one done three years ago.

Still life
12" x 16"
2014

The paint is applied entirely with a palette knife.

Paul Nordberg self-portrait

Self-portrait
16" x 20"
2014

Portrait 2 of my mother, Beverly Nordberg

My mother, Beverly, happy
16" x 20"
2014

Even in the depths of my mother's dementia, there were many happy moments.

Portrait 1 of my mother, Beverly

My mother, Beverly, in pain
16" x 20"
2010

I took over my mother's oil painting set when her mind lost its ability to work with it. I wanted it to be not just a piece of memorabilia, but a living, active tool set. It was obvious to me what the first new painting should be: a picture of her. I had virtually no experience in working with oils, but I did have a lot of determination.

This was not a happy time for us. My mother was suffering from a lingering spell of the flu and was generally miserable. Like a very young child, she was unable to identify the flu as an external event. It was just a presence that colored everything.

There were other things going on that she was not aware of, but I was. My younger brother, Peter, had just died unexpectedly. Her dementia was progressing at a very rapid pace, though that in itself gave her no pain and she had no idea that anything was different from normal.

These tides are reflected in the painting.