Monday, October 31, 2011

Color Mixing Research

Canaveral Seashore Paintings

Notes From My Color Mixing Journal

I know this is a tree journal but my travels take me to many locations with different color than my home turf. I thought it might be interesting to talk about that on the tree journal before I get back to my usual tree painting efforts.

I spent two days painting at the beach under the beach pavilion. It was excellent because I was able to paint in the shade while viewing the ocean and sky. The first day I painted ocean waves and that was the real challenge of the paint out. I had been practicing waves in my studio for a few weeks in anticipation. That was fairly easy, working from a photo reference. Doing them live, on site is another matter entirely.The three paintings I did were pretty good as studies. I was really fond of one in particular. It was minimal and really appealed to me. The important discovery was the color mixing improvement I got by working for an entire day on waves. I had been mixing improperly in the studio with too blue a mixture. The ocean that day was much grayer and greener than blue. I have noticed that many artists, me too, automatically mix water too blue. I learned a lot about the mixture that day.  I used ultramarine blue, yellow ochre, ivory black, titanium white, and a bit of lemon yellow for the high curl of the waves. Of course in different areas of the beach at different times during the week, the water could be quite blue and even emerald green, but that day it was grayer. Lots of fun and a break from painting the farms, ranches and trees I love so much.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Coastal Trees

Notes From Canaveral National Seashore

I've been over on the coast for a week, painting at the national park. It is a very different landscape from my north central Florida fields with huge live oaks and pines.There aren't as many hardwoods there and there are many more palms on the coast. They rise up out of the dunes in the park just about everywhere. Underneath are lots of sturdy little bushes and palmettos. This time of year, I found lots of  the wild daisies growing around and lovely feathery grasses growing among the palms. The oaks are straggly and twisted with odd shaped limbs and more sinewy thin trunks, as if they have been struck by arthritis. It is beautiful there and a refreshing change of scenery for a short time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who doesn't love fall trees?

Holy Ground Field
at Fair Oaks

Notes From My Tree Journal

Lots of people go up north to observe the fall trees, but I love the transition in Florida. It is much more subtle here than the riot of color up north. This painting was done with both brush and painting knife. I find that I love the combination of brush and knife. Most of the trunks and limbs were done with the knife and some of the grasses. The rest with brush work. I like the control of the brush and the spontaneity of the knife.

This will be my last post until October 25th. I am going on the road this weekend to Canaveral National Seashore, to paint for a week.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Trees Can Do in an Urban Environment

What Can Trees Do For You?
  • Shade
    Trees make our homes and neighborhoods cooler, reducing utility bills in the summer. The appearance of a shaded neighborhood street is appealing. The image of several trees growing together on the same block to create a closed canopy is not only a majestic one, but a much cooler one! The more trees there are in a neighborhood, the cooler it is for everyone who lives there.
 A healthy mature tree can add to your property value. Estimates range, but an increase of 10% is not uncommon. Successful landscapes built around trees are beautiful to those who live there, and eye-catching to those looking to buy.
  • Economically Valuable
 Trees are natural filters of all too familiar city sounds. From cars driving by, to excitable neighbors, trees provide a quieter home by deflecting and absorbing sound.
  • Noise Filters
 Trees help to trap pollutants such as carbon monoxide and dust. Through a tree's natural functions, our air is purer and oxygen is given away.
  • Air Filters
 Our water is made cleaner by the presence of trees, especially trees near watersheds or other drainage areas. Tiny roots absorb chemicals picked up in surface water and are stored in the tree.
Along with improving water quality, trees help to stabilize soils by gripping soil particles with their roots. The presence of trees along watersheds that contain soils which are susceptible to erosion can significantly reduce the amount of pollutants in the water.
Many species of wildlife are attracted to trees, including squirrels, birds, and insects. For bird watchers or other wildlife observers, a neighborhood full of trees is a must.
Trees also protect us against wind by diverting it over or around us. Evergreen species planted on the north side of homes can reduce cold North winds during the winter.
  • Other Environmental
 A complete and healthy urban landscape includes the trees of the urban forest. The urban forest is made up of all of the trees within city limits. Our city forest enhances the visual and environmental quality of life, which in turn contributes to economic development. In this way, trees are helping citizens to more fully enjoy community life.
  • Quality of Life

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spreading Beauty in My World

Notes From my Tree Journal

I spend a lot of time out in the fields at farms and ranches and I travel a few times each year to painting events. I always was a huge admirer of Lady Bird Johnson who is responsible for many of the wildflowers we see along our roadsides. She made that her legacy to America as first lady and I am grateful to her. As I travel around, I gather wildflowers, pressing the fresh ones to use later and gathering the spent seed heads to share with my friends and patrons. It is a very nice hobby. I use the pressed flowers on wrapped paintings that I ship out to patrons and they seem to enjoy them.

Being a tree painter makes me aware of many wonderful aspects of nature, not just trees. Giving wild flower seeds to friends, and scattering them in the fields seems like a good way to spread the love of our natural world.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Neighborhood Farm

Notes From My Tree Journal

I discovered this farm about two miles from my painting stiudio three years ago. It is a lovely farm with cattle, huge Live Oak and pine trees. Very scenic. I was allowed to paint there very shortly, but with many restrictions. The owner insisted that I give him a painting in trade, and I was only allowed to paint for a few weeks on special days. I had to call ahead for permission.  I found that is was not worth the aggravation of following endless rules to paint there. A shame as it is a lovely place very close to me.

This kind of situation is rare, thank goodness. Almost every land owner I know allows me to paint on their farms whenever I like to. Most are generous with their time and resources, asking nothing from me in return. It is so important to respect the land where you paint and not to take anything for granted. I always ask permission in advance and I never leave anything behind except my footprints.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Painting Trees on Location

Notes From My Painting Journal

A reader commented last night on painting out in the fields rather than in the studio. I've been painting on location for about 25 years now. There are a variety of ways to do it. I have two sized paint boxes and a field easel that is collapsible and light weight for larger paintings. The only time I do large format work on location is when I am going to be in the area for several days. I like to do large paintings in stages. For small format I usually work alla prima, or also called in one setting. My paint boxes, called pochade boxes, are 9x12 and 6x8 and I have a tiny 5x7 box I use now and then. Most of the time, my plein air work is small from 5x7 to 9x12. I do take my camera or smart phone with me to take reference photos. I often use these small paintings as references for larger studio work. I carry a back pack, my hat, and a garden bench with me if I am going to paint for several days. For a single session, I prefer to stand to paint. I like the back pack system much better than the carts that lots of painters use.  I like to travel light. if it wont fit in my pack, it doesn't need to go.  I use a palette of 6 tubes of paint and three or four brushes, 2 painting knives. I paint with acrylic most of the time now. I paint on private lands most of the time, or in national/state parks. Most of the time I paint alone so it is important to be in safe places. I never take more supplies than I will use in my session. I keep my extra supplies in my box in the car to refill.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wekiva Trees

Notes From my Tree Journal

Wekiva State Park is a favorite place for me to paint. I get to go for a week each year and live in the park. There is something special about living in the wilderness. I'm the kind of painter who likes to return to a place over and over again to paint.  I have painted there for about 7 years and will be going in March of 2012 again. It took me two or three years to get a feel for  the land and the trees there. Now I look forward to the trip, anticipating the kinds of scenes I want to paint. I love the tall stands of pines as well as the tall palms and ancient oak trees along the path to Lake is the kind of event where I have all day long to paint where I wish to with no real pressure or schedules to worry about. There are a few activities, but most of the time I get to stay in the park and back pack around with my gear. There are a lot of dead trees scattered here and there which I also enjoy painting.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Painting Palms

Notes From my Tree Journal

A bit about painting palm trees

Almost all Florida landscape painters paint a lot of palm trees. Each of us has our own signature for them. Here is a little about my method.

I like to lay in the trunk height first, adding the basic shape of the canopy at the top. I then will consider that there will be a dark shadow at the top of the trunk area because of the canopy above it. I like to make that shadow area a bit purply right under the canopy. There will be a shadow on the trunk on the side away from the light. There will usually be a fair amount of texture on the trunk as well. Some areas will be broken up light and shadow.

 When I start the canopy area, I like to make a dark mass low in the canopy.  The lighter tip of the fronds will be in the area of the most sunlight. It will be a warm light green, the darker value will be cool dark greens.

There are often dead fronds hanging down from the bottom where they have not fallen off or have not been trimmed. Those are usually tan or light brown with a bit of gray here and there. They also tend to be a fairly light color except were shadows hit them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tree are a Gift

Notes From My Tree Journal

Trees are a favorite subject for me as a painter and they always have been. Yes, I am a tree hugger. Trees represent stability, strength, permanence, a primal relationship to the land for me. Their roots dig deep into the land that I cherish. I have many happy memories of wandering the forests and woods of North Central Florida, all of my life.  My Daddy loved the land too. He always felt there was nothing more important you could own. The land owns us really, not the other way around.  It seeps into our souls.  I have witnessed this time and again in the farmers, ranchers and landowners I know. A deep respect and nurturing attitude about the land they live on. They are good stewards of the land and of the trees; not careless with this gift.

If you saw the Lord of the Rings films you will remember the wonderful “Shepherd of the Forest”. I love that part of the films when the trees came to life.  There is a magic to them. If you spend as much time as I do with trees you will sense their souls and their language.

If I can do nothing else with my work, I hope to leave a legacy and tribute to the glorious trees I paint. Many of these farmers and ranchers are getting older now. I worry that their land will be sold and developed after they are gone. Will their children respect and preserve their lands? I pray so. Some are agreeing to conservation easements and this is a wonderful thing to do. 

I support the area land trust organizations because they are so important to keep North Central Florida beautiful.

I urge you to find an organization in your area and to support it. We must find a way to preserve the trees and land in order to have any kind of decent environment for our future generations. Hug a tree today and plant one too.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Notes From My Tree Journal

This grand group of trees are only about 3 miles from my painting studio. They grow along the edge of a country road. They have great character, including lots of twisty limbs and knots growing on the trunks. The trick to painting masses of trees is to decide who will be the star of the production and gradually lower the drama and detail in the supporting actors. My star is the closest tree in this painting. I gave it lots of light and interesting texture.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Studying A Tree Trunk

8x10 inches
acrylic on Source Tek panel

Notes From my Tree Journal

This was a great tree to study. It is growing in the woods at Fair Oaks in Evinston. What wonderful character. It has many stories to tell.

With such strong imagery, I found it a challenge to make the background fit without giving it much notice. I would like to do this one again. It was very challenging.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Playing with my Florida Winter Palette

Notes From My Tree Journal

I did this painting today with the same palette as my painting yesterday. I will try to get a better image to share tomorrow. I am really liking this palette. In today's version of pine trees at Fair Oaks, where I am an Artist in Residence, I used a lemon yellow bias in the trees. Yesterday, I used a yellow ochre bias in the tree painting. That is what I love about this palette. You can push the palette more to the earth color or more to the cool greens, depending on how much lemon or ochre you mix into the greens. Using blue and black as your green mixers give you a lot of room to move from gray greens, to cool intense greens. This is a terrific palette. I think I'll be able to use it for most of the winter this year. One of the things I like about the last couple of painting with this is using the cool gray sky rather than the usual blue.  I have a thing about using odd colors in my skies. I don't mean the ubiquitous pink clouds that so many Florida painters use, I mean the entire sky. I have painted brown skies, yellow, blue, lavender, gray, pink and orange skies as well as red.

Go big or go home!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A nice tree palette for Florida

Notes From My Tree Journal

I did this 9x12 painting today and I really enjoyed it. I had no problems with it which leads me to believe it is my plein air work that I'm having trouble adjusting to.  This was a studio painting, so thank goodness the studio work seems to be going smoothly.

I particularly like this palette for Florida paintings.

Yellow Ochre (Old Holland)
Ultramarine Blue (Golden)
Cadmium Lemon Yellow (Old Holland)
Titanium White (Winsor & Newton)
Ivory Black (Winsor & Newton)
Cadmium Red Light (Old Holland)

This is the palette I most often use and it has a great range without getting out of control.

There are a few colors that I can add as accents here and there at the end of the painting occasionally but this painting only has the above colors:

Red iron Oxide (Old Holland)
Thalo Blue Red Shade (Old Holland)
Cad Yellow Medium (Grumbacher)
Rose (Winsor & Newton)

The first six colors are really good for winter painting too, using a heavier bias of the ocher and less of the cad lemon. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Struggle

Notes From My Tree Journal

My artist's ego took a beating this week from a couple of sources and I've been having some trouble with my plein air work, so it has not been a good painting week. That's OK. It's not the first time and surely won't be the last. The important issue for me is to have faith in myself regardless of outside rejections and influences.  It is easy to believe you are failing because of set backs. They must be overcome and pushed aside in the quest for excellence as a painter.

This painting was done on location in my yard.  Henry, my French Bulldog joined me by snoozing on the walkway while I worked on the painting.  There is a group of trees I enjoy painting. The two white trunked trees get this way each year, losing their leaves very fast and leaving the white trunks with a few colorful leaves left for spots of color. They are striking!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Tribute

A Tribute to the Late Wangari Maathai

From Arbor Day 

"When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and the seeds of hope. We also secure the future for our children."
-- Wangari Maathai

These words are inscribed in the lobby of the Arbor Day Foundation headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska. They are the profound words of a profound person to whom our world owes so much.
Sadly, Professor Wangari Maathai passed away on September 25th after a brave battle with cancer. She will always hold a special place in history for all that she accomplished.
In 2004, the Arbor Day Foundation honored Wangari Maathai with the prestigious J. Sterling Morton Award to honor her lifelong commitment to tree planting and environmental stewardship. Indeed, her work transcends generations and will continue to touch millions of people for years to come.
We will forever be inspired.

Dr. Wangari Maathai, Nairobi, Kenya, winner of the J. Sterling Morton Award.

The Morton Award is the Foundation's highest individual honor, given for exemplary work at the national or international level. Dr. Maathai was a member of Kenyan Parliament and served as the Deputy Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife.
While a member of Kenya's National Council of Women, she created a grass-roots program to work with women's groups planting trees. Known as the Green Belt Movement, these efforts resulted in planting over 20 million trees in Kenya, and served as model for representatives throughout the African continent.
A featured speaker at the United Nations Earth Summit, Dr. Maathai, among her many achievements, was recognized by Time magazine as one of 100 people worldwide making a difference for the environment.
In 2004, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her contribution in environmental conservation and human rights.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cracks in Tree Trunk

Notes From My Tree Journal

A reader wrote to ask why tree trunks crack. Here is some information on that:

Trunk Cracks and Wood Rot
Marianne C. Ophardt
Washington State University Cooperative Extension
Area Extension Agent

Have you ever seen cracks in tree trunks?  Radial separations of bark and wood are usually referred to as frost cracks.  Almost every reference you’ll look at on tree care blame frost cracks on extremes fluctuations of temperature in the winter.  In fact, most sources blame frost cracks on the phenomenon of “southwest winter injury.”  This type of injury is attributed to the bark and wood of trees warming up on the southwest side on a sunny but cold winter day.  The tissue deacclimates, coming out of its complete winter dormancy.  When the sun goes down and the temperature drops rapidly, the tissues can’t reacclimate quickly enough and the water in the tissue freezes, causing cell damage.  The theory has been that sometimes this tissue damage can result in wood and bark cracks.

For many years bark cracks and trunk splits were attributed only to frost.  It wasn’t until the last twenty years, under the guidance of former U.S. Forestry Service scientist and author, Dr. Alex Shigo, that researchers have realized the real cause of split trunks and bark cracks.  Apparently “frost” cracks start from a wound that may have happened much earlier in the tree’s life.  These wounds are believed to be formed at the death of a root or branch.  This wound can create an internal “crack” that develops as a result of stresses from drying, wind, or temperature extremes.  When other pressures occur, such as the thawing and freezing that occurs in the “southwest winter injury” scenario, the internal cracks develop outward.

While the frost leads to a visible crack and open wound, it’s not the real cause of “frost cracks.”  The real cause of the cracks are the death of major roots at planting time; physical injury to roots from construction or soil compaction; wounds created by flush cut pruning; dead limbs resulting from topping cuts, physical injury to the tree trunk, and poor graft unions.

What is the problem with cracks in the tree wood?  Even though callus forms at the edge of the crack and may appear to close it, the wood will never re-knit together.  It’s not like broken bones on humans.  Once those wood fibers are split, they are split forever.  This weakens the mechanical support of the trunk or limbs involved. 

Which came first the chicken or the egg?  It was thought that trunk cracks developed first and then the decay developed in the center due to the opening created by the cracks.  Shigo discovered that the decay is there before the crack, coming from the dead roots, branches, or wounds which instigated the crack.  Additional fungi and insects may attack the tree as a result of the outward crack, but decay organisms are already present before the outward crack develops.
What can be done about split trunks?  Not much really.  One must realize that most of the wood cells of a tree are dead cells.  As I mentioned, they will not “knit” or grow back together.  In the case of most trunk cracks, the internal wood of the tree is already subject to wood decay from fungi.  The tree may function quite well with little effect from the crack or internal decay, since    the vital functions are carried out in the outer few inches of the tree's circumference.  The real concern is for the tree’s structural integrity.  If wood decay becomes substantial, the tree will become a hazard.

Don’t try to paint or seal the split with any type of compound.  They don’t help and they can aggravate the wound.  The best you can do is clean or smooth the edges of the wound with a sharp knife.  Start at one end of the split, smooth around one side of the wound, going no more than one‑half to one inch back from the split bark.  Stop at the other end and do the same procedure on the opposite side of the split.  This aids in callus development.  Sterilize the knife between cuts by dipping for several minutes in a 1:10, bleach:water solution or a 70 percent alcohol solution.
Occasionally “bleeding” or slimy seepage occurs from cracks and wounds.  This is called wetwood or slimeflux.  It is caused by an infection of the wood by a bacterium.  This bacterium feeds on the sugar in the wood and produces a foul-smelling gas and liquid basically through a fermentation process.  The infection can kill some of the bark cambium and can stunt growth but, usually doesn’t kill the tree.

Not all “cracks” are serious cracks that form in the wood.  Some cracks are simply bark splits and are not likely to be fatal to trees, although they will, in some cases, allow entry of disease organisms which can lead to wood decay.  Most of these bark splits are fairly superficial, forming mainly in the outer bark.  Splits occur vertically along the trunk or main branches.  In many cases, bark splits will often close or callus over completely leaving only a slight ridge in the trunk.
Causes of these splits include various environmental factors, such as rapid growth spurts, drought, fluctuating conditions of excessive and deficient, temperature extremes, southwest winter injury, late fall growth, and sun scald.  Trees that are most susceptible to this type of injury are those with thin bark, such as Kwanzan cherry, maple, and certain fruit trees.  Young trees also seem more prone to bark‑splitting than older, established trees.

So the next time you see a bark split or a crack in the trunk of a tree be aware that the real cause of the problem is not frost.  They are reminders that tree care from the time of planting to pruning all contributes to a tree’s health, now and in the future.