Monday, December 30, 2013

Heritage and Champion Trees

Painting in progress
20x24 inches
Oil on canvas

Notes From My Tree Painting Journal

The above painting is a champion Cottonwood tree in Texas. My project for the year is to do a series of champion and heritage trees of the south paintings. This is a project I'm excited and challenged to do. I plan to paint champions from Florida, Georgia, the Carolina's, Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. 

This will allow me to stretch my skill building study and to honor these great trees. I will enjoy researching their stories and histories. It might make a nice book. who knows? This should keep me busy, along with my Artist and Residence Project. 2014 is going to be a great year for painting trees.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Strategy For Tree Color Mixing

Notes From my "Ask Blondheim" Column
I write a question and answer column on Facebook and my Art Notes Blog. This topic may be useful for Florida or Southern tree painters. Naturally each tree painter uses their own technique and mixtures. I paint north Florida most of the time and these mixes work for me.
Linda, What is your favorite palette for mixing tree canopies?

A lot depends on where you live as to the best color for tree canopy greens, as well as the season , time of year.  Here in north central Florida, I like to use a combination of Ivory Black, Ultramarine Blue and a bit of Cadmium Yellow medium in winter for the darkest parts of the canopy. As I add color and light to the branches of leaves, I add more cadmium yellow and less black to the mix. I will also use various warms as needed, such as cadmium orange, yellow ochre, and cad red to the mixture to warm it up for winter and fall. Slow and gradual adjustments in the color mixes work great for me. You can also make nice darks with trans red oxide and ultramarine or cad red deep with sap green.

I have found that my favorite green mix for Live Oak trees is either ultramarine with yellow ochre or thalo blue red shade with yellow ochre. As light intensifies in some areas of the canopy, I begin to add a bit of cad yellow medium or cad orange to that mixture, but not over doing it.

For summer mixtures, there is more cool green, so I switch to cadmium lemon yellow and ochre for my mixing yellows, and ultramarine and thalo for the dark cool greens. I stay away from black for summer painting, unless I want to mix true grays, because the greens are too olive with black for summer, when the canopies tend toward a blue green. Remember to warm your greens use the warmer part of the color wheel like reds, oranges and warm yellows. To cool your greens use more blue and cooler yellows. If your mixture gets out of control and too intense, use black to make a grayer green or red to tone down the intensity, just a bit.

For trunks, I use black, white, cad red light, cad orange, red iron oxide, UB, in various mixes. I like to add a blue cast to the dark edge and a blue gray to limbs moving away from the viewer to show atmospheric and distant quality to the limbs. Here in the south, there will be limbs covered in various green mosses, so a bit of cad yellow or ochre will take care of that. I usually will lighten and soften limbs and twigs that reach up into the sky, so there is a softer transition in that part of the canopy.

Have fun experimenting and and thanks for your question.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Repairing Frost Cracks in Trees

Notes From My Tree Journal

I got a request from a reader about winter damage from trees. This is the information I found:

Frost cracks are not actually caused by frost, but by fluctuating temperatures. The cracks are most often found on the south or southwest sides of trees, which get the most direct sunlight. On a cold, sunny day, the sun warms the bark and wood of the tree, causing them to expand. At night when the temperature drops rapidly, the bark cools faster than the wood beneath, forcing the bark to split vertically as it shrinks over the expanded wood. This is most likely to occur on trees with wounds that have already weakened the bark, especially if they are young trees or trees with thin bark. These cracks are rarely fatal to the tree and can be minimized.


Examine the crack in the tree bark. If the sides of the split are smooth and the bark is still firmly attached to the tree, do not do anything. The tree will eventually form a callous over the crack.


Remove any bark that has separated from the wood of the tree. The bark will not reattach if left on, but will prevent the tree from callousing properly. Cut the separated bark from the tree with a sharp knife. Make sure you do not cut into the tree wood, but only through the bark layer.


Shape the wound while you cut to resemble a skinny, sideways football with the pointed ends at the top and bottom of the wound. This shape will make it easier for water to drain from the bottom of the wound rather than collecting on the bark.


Check the frost crack periodically in the spring and summer to make sure no organisms are invading the tree through the open wound.

Thanks to for this information.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Red Cedar

Red Cedar at Little Talbot Island
9x12 inched
Oil on canvas

Demo in front of my studio

Notes From My Tree Painting Journal

I've recently started doing 2 hour tree painting demos on the sidewalk in front of my studio. It is a lot of fun and I meet lots of people who enjoy watching. I turn on my IPad radio app and listen to Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong while I paint. I use the reference photos I have on my photo app for the paintings. People really enjoy it and I like the challenge of having busy people stopping to watch for awhile. 

As you probably know, I am a big Red Cedar fan. I find them very challenging to paint. They are lovely wild trees on the coast where I usually find them. They are often twisted by the rain so the trunks bleach out. The canopy is often pushed away from the constant wind. The canopy is a rich green, highlighted in the sun with cool yellows. The fine needles point in all kinds of layers and directions. Great painting fun and frustration at the same time. 

Just a yummy, beautiful specimen in the family of our beloved trees. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Line VS Mass

Study at Fair Oaks 
8x10 inches
Oil on panel
Study at Fair Oaks
8x10 inches
Oil on panel

Notes From My Tree Painting Journal

All tree painters have their own approach to constructing trees. I am a mass painter by nature. I see large shapes when I paint. I look for positive and negative shapes and their angles. There is very little line in my painting until the end of the painting when I add a few limbs and moss to the trees. My paintings start as abstract shapes and progress into more recognizable objects near the end of the process. I am looking at light and shadow as shapes throughout the process as well. I use lost and found lines here and there to lead the viewer around but mostly masses.

I have a friend who I would call a line painter.  He uses hundreds of lines throughout his paintings to form eventual masses of lines. An interesting process. His process is slower than mine and intricate. I think all painters are biased naturally in one or the other. He sees lines, I see large shapes that progressively get smaller.  Which is right? Both of us. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sky Holes

Notes From My Tree Painting Journal

I got an email from a reader, asking me about how to paint sky holes in trees. I imagine that all kinds of painters will have all kinds of methods to paint sky holes. After many years of painting trees and practicing, I have found that my method works quite well.

I try to vary the shapes and sizes of sky holes to make them look more natural. The larger the sky hole is in the canopy, the lighter it will be toward the center. The smaller the hole is, he darker it will be because light will not pass as easily in a small space. I premix two slightly different tints of light sky color, one for outside of the canopy and the slightly darker version inside of the tree canopy for sky holes.

You should also be aware of problems with tangents (artificial stops) when painting sky holes. For example, if you are putting a sky hole next to a limb, be sure to extend it to the other side of the limb so that it continues. it will be a tangent if you only place it on one side of the limb. I try not to make the holes the same shape on both sides of the limb.

After I have put in my sky holes with oils, I take the flat side of a soft brush and gently lay it parallel on the canvas over the holes and pull it straight back. This slightly softens the edges of the holes making the edge transition softer between canopy and light. It will look more natural and not pasted on.

For acrylics, I wait until the sky holes are dry and then wash a dark blue over then to tone them slightly darker than the light outside of the tree canopy.The wash must be very thin.

The important thing about sky holes is to make them vary as much as possible and to look as natural as possible. There will be more holes higher in the canopy and fewer as you go down the tree. Study trees when you are out and look at their construction.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Winter Live Oak finished

30x40 inches
Oil on canvas

Notes From My Tree Painting Journal

I've been working along on this painting for about two weeks. I finished it yesterday and framed it today. I sure enjoyed it and I'm fond of this winter palette. It is nicely harmonic I feel. I worked on learning some technique with the distant tree line in this painting. I left it fairly dark, with very close values in the canopy, moss and lower area of the tree masses in deep shadow. 

In January when life is not so busy, I want to dedicate 2014 to more tree study, focusing on learning some new species of trees. I want to study Sycamore, Dogwood,  Swamp maple, hickory and a few less common trees. I have to expand my knowledge about painting trees. I have a lot to learn.