GROTON -- Twenty years ago, Lois Underwood began to paint. She tentatively sketched her first flowers from blossoms she picked in the garden of her home (Underwood, an iconic Grotonian, is a life member of the Groton Garden Club). And sometimes during winter she'd resort to using photographs of flowers from postcards and magazines for motif and inspiration.
As Underwood became more adept at drawing and the unforgiving medium of watercolor, her paintings acquired confidence, and her compositions became more thoughtful and daring. Small florals set against black backgrounds startle with their sophistication.
Over the years, taking classes first at the DeCordova Museum in Concord and then at the Fitchburg Art Museum and with local artists, Underwood took new ideas back to her small studio to practice, practice, practice.
Underwood started to keep a sketchbook, a habit long practiced by her husband Bayard Underwood, whose sketchbooks span his adult lifetime. (Bayard, artist and architect, died in 2010 at the age of 93.) In her sketchbooks, Underwood recorded visual observations: the particular curve of a person's nose; the shape that her cat, The General, made with his back turned, or the way he crossed his paws in that prim manner cats have; the patterns of leaves on a branch. Anything that triggers a visual curiosity was -- and is -- added to Underwood's sketchbook.
Two decades later, Underwood's interest in the world around her has only sharpened. On her weekly trips to Nashua for groceries, Underwood sometimes stops to see the seasonal changes in the little pond off Locust Avenue in Tyngsboro. A sensitive observer, Underwood doesn't miss the impact of careless intervention by our fellow humans on fragile ecological systems such as this pond or the effect of weather and neglect on an Oklahoma farmhouse, which she saw on a trip to her birthplace some years ago. Though often working from photographs, Underwood manages to convey a sense of the personally observed in these works, and powers them with a poignant sense of loss and acceptance, longing, and matter-of-fact resilience.
More recent among Underwood's works are directly observed views from an upstairs window of her home looking west. A sense of play and experimentation are evident as Underwood employs cutout images from magazines in this unusual view of upper Main Street in Groton. These and other paintings of buildings demonstrate Underwood's interest in structures in the landscape.
A collection of Underwood's work will be displayed at Open Studio Groton from Nov. 16 to Dec. 31, with an opening reception on Friday, Nov. 16, from 5 to 7:30 p.m.