Thursday, January 19, 2012


I  love trees.  I love  to paint trees.  I once told my English Lit. class  (some of whom feared for my immortal soul!) that if there were no trees in heaven, I wasn't going!   

Many of my  watercolor students, some of whom are very accomplished, approach painting trees as if they were still in kindergarten.  In their prejudiced eyes, all trees are brown.  But when I ask them if they can see red, their eyes suddenly fly open!  If I ask them to see green on the bark, they suddenly notice moss.  If I ask them to see blue, it takes a little longer, but eventually they start coming around.  And even if they can't see those colors, I still ask them to paint them because unrelieved dark brown is so boring. 

Other students insist on trying to get the whole tree in their painting.  If this happens, I  tell them to look straight ahead and tell me if they can see the blackbird on the top branch.  If they move their head to look, then I point out that they are not painting a video! 

In this painting of a live oak in Apalachicola, the tree is not a frame for the main subject; it is the subject.  The figure and the dog against the light of the house act as secondary interest, but the tree is the main entertainment, which I emphasized by its bulk and texture.  I downplayed texture elsewhere in the painting so your eye would travel the surface of the tree and its color.

Study real trees instead of relying on your idea of a tree that you probably formed in elementary school.

No comments:

Post a Comment