Original oil painting on wood panel by Fredric McCormick measures 16"x16".
Concerning My Obsession with Rocks
"Some people call them popples, or popplestones, or cobblestones. In my family we always referred to them as rollstones – the smooth, rounded rocks you can find in almost any creek or river or rocky beach. Near our cabin in Wisconsin, you need only dig down a few inches in the sandy soil and you’ll find them there as well.
From an early age I’ve had a marked affinity for rock, its weight and colors and textures. I suppose it began with fossils: those trips to my grandparents’ house in Texas and the exciting side trips into creek beds in search of ancient shells and other sea creatures turned to stone. And in New Jersey where I was growing up there were those amazing granite boulders dropped here and there in the woods by some prehistoric glacier that reached the upper half of the state. But a trip to the coast of Maine in my middle school years launched the beginnings of a long-term love affair with rollstones.
At first merely an admirer, it would not be until my late twenties that I first took up the brush in an attempt to capture their beauty on canvas. Those first efforts left me frustrated; my medium (oil paint) and the technique I had learned for using it, did not lend themselves to success with this particular subject. I almost gave up. Then my brother made me aware of an artist who was having astonishing success in the depiction of rollstones, Alan Magee, an artist (not surprisingly) from Maine. I bought a large, beautiful print of one of his paintings, and it has been my constant companion ever since, inspiring in me the effort to perfect my own technique. While Magee’s paintings are mostly rendered in acrylic paint, I have taught myself to achieve my aims in oil.
Some of the stones you see in my paintings are ones that I have collected over decades of my life, arranged in a box or on a shelf or what have you. Others I photographed just as they lay in their natural setting. Still others have been created straight from my imagination, but with the aid of reference stones scattered all around my easel.
Beyond their wonderful beauty – which is reason enough to paint them – I am forever finding myself reflecting on the process whereby these smooth stones are created. A rough block of stone breaks off from an exposed stratum of rock, pried loose by the expansion of freezing water in a tiny crack. It falls wherever it falls, a jagged and irregular chunk. Gravity may tumble it downhill; but some way or another it must reach or be reached by water, and enough of it to lift and move the stone. It meets with other rocks and they grind against each other by the action of the moving water. The stone may stay more or less trapped in the same spot for years, or it may be carried great distances by spring floods or ocean currents. All this tumbling and grinding takes the rough, jagged rock that fell from the ledge or cliff, and renders it smooth. The hard corners are gone, the rough texture becomes polished, the overall shape becomes more uniform. And beauty shines forth.
What a metaphor for life! It’s the journey we’re on: a rough and tumble and often hard journey capable of transforming us if we will yield to its influence. This is why the titles of many of my pieces allude to a journey, or a transformation, or encounters with others, or lessons learned along the way. That original block of stone might well have broken loose and fallen to the ground in some sunny, isolated spot, and stayed there comfortably for years and years to come. But at the end of all that time, it would still be just a jagged chunk of rock, and never know the beauty of a rollstone."
Fredric I. McCormick
"Chance Encounters" by Fredric McCormick
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