Sunday, February 26, 2012

Shepherds of the Forest

I met the Shepherds of the Forests this week at my Fair Oaks painting residency. There is a new lane I discovered that runs between Fair Oaks and the neighbor's land. Both sides of the lane are lined with ancient trees. They are deep and wise souls and I can feel the hair stand up on the back of my head as I drive slowly between them. They are speaking, if only I could understand their language. What a fantastic experience!!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Studies with My Students

Tree Paintings

Notes From My Tree Journal

Today I did one of my favorite learning exercises with my Saturday afternoon painting class. I call them progressive paintings. We start with a limited palette of 5 tube colors. The first painting is done in 15 minutes. We stop and analyze each painting, talking about compositional improvements,value structure and scale. We decide what plan to make in our next painting. Each painting is of the same scene. Then we start the next study. We take 25 minutes for painting two. Then we go through the same routine of discussion, comparing our first and second painting. The next painting is a 45 minute painting. The idea is to improve a bit on each effort, taking a little longer with each study. Because the class is in my loft studio, I had to leave my painting several times to talk with studio visitors so mine are pretty hit or miss due to the interruptions, but I will go back to them and correct and finish them. I'll use them as a series of the tree I studied. This is a sure fire way to improve your painting skills with trees or any subject.

I am excited to be leaving Monday morning for a week of bliss at my favorite artist residency, Fair Oaks. I am privileged to spend a week there this time. I'll be studying lots of trees while I'm there. When I get back I'll check in here with some new tree paintings.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Live Oak Tree Painting

Notes From My Tree Painting Journal

I started this painting on location at Fair Oaks on Sunday afternoon. It was really cold, in the low to mid 40's all day. We have had practically no cold weather this year so I was unprepared. I was woefully under dressed for the conditions. I managed to get a completed 5x7 study and to start this painting. I worked on it yesterday and today in my painting studio behind the house. I really enjoyed doing it but my light is burned out over the easel so it was a bit of a struggle to see well enough. Today was a better session and I was able to finish it up. I find that I have become used to painting in my other studio, the loft, and like painting there most of the time. it is a cozy space and warmer than my home studio. The light is better too.

I have painted this tree before, but never from this angle. It is a quite interesting specimen with it's curving winding trunk. I can only imagine all it has endured in its long life. It is perched on the edge of a wetland pond, which is now a dry prairie due to the constant drought in our part of the world.

Next week I will be able to paint several trees at my week long residency at Fair Oaks. Always my favorite tree place.

 Identifying Characteristics
Live oak is a large tree that reaches heights of 65' to 85'. It has a wide spreading crown and is buttressed and flared at the base of the trunk.
The leaves are simple, alternately arranged, and may persist on the tree through winter until they gradually fall as new leaves emerge in the spring. The leaves are 2" to 5" long by ½" to 2 ½" wide. The narrowly to broadly elliptical shaped leaves are usually stiff and leathery. The upper surface is shiny, dark green. The leaves are dull grayish green underneath. The leaf base is tapering and the tip is short pointed to rounded. The margin is smooth and slightly wavy.
The acorns are ¾" to 1" long, broadest at the base to almost uniformly wide and rounded to pointed at the tip. Acorns are light brown within the cap that covers ¼ of the dark nut. The largest part of the acorn is dark brown to black and shiny. They occur solitary or in clusters of three to five nuts, and they mature in one season on the current year's branchlets.
The dark brown to reddish-brown bark is thick with shallow furrows and roughly ridged, eventually becoming blocky with age.
Inhabiting a wide variety of sites, you can find live oak in almost pure stands, or scattered in mixed woodlands, hammocks, flatwoods, borders of salt marshes, roadsides, city lots, and commonly scattered in pastures. Live oak is found growing in association with several other hardwoods, including the water oak, laurel oak, sweetgum, southern magnolia, and American holly.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Next Red Cedar

Notes From my Tree Journal

This is my second painting from my studies of glazing methods. Tomorrow I will work on canvas with this method to see what happens with that.  I find this to be interesting, but it's early in my study of the process, so I have not decided whether to include this in my tool box of technique or not.

 The pros include:

 a more luminous quality to the paint surface

soft edge work

easier to do than opaque acrylic process

Faster than opaque method, as there is less need for tight brush work. Having said that, painters who like tight rendering and detail would have to work much more to get that with this method.

The Cons include:

A less impressive brush quality

Fairly weak edge work where you really need to have a crisp clean edge

Contrast is more difficult in the high key values, in other words weak lights and poorer contrast. For painters who like the middle range of values this method is an asset.

It is much too early for conclusions, so I must do more research and improve my skill with the technique.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Research Trees Painting

Notes From my Tree Journal

Today I decided to do some experimenting on a 9x12 inch painting. I started it recently with abasic block in with opaque acrylic application. Today, rather than carrying on in my usual method of opaque layers, I decided to use thin layers mixed with glazing medium for each application. It is a different look and more luminous than the method I usually use. I have seen a lot of acrylic work with multiple thin layers and never much cared for it, but this is a bit different because the initial block in is opaque. It was intriguing and interesting, so I will try again tomorrow with another 9x12 that I blocked in a couple of weeks ago. If that one goes well, I will next try this technique with a stretched large format painting to see how it goes.