Pondering Painting a PICTURE of a Tree

I have a painting in mind and it involves an old cottonwood tree growing next to a dirt road in the Big Empty. The painting is from a photograph I took last year in a moment when I saw a painting happening in front of me.

Trees, however, individual trees, are not easy to paint. I did OK on this painting, though. It’s tiny, 7 x 5.

Cottonwood tree in a March Blizzard in Descansso, CA

The tree I’m hoping to paint doesn’t look much different from this one, but as it will not be in snow, the demarcation between branches won’t be as easy and THAT, for me, is the big challenge. The other challenge is that I imagine this painting as a very large painting. Maybe THE painting for the big canvas — 4 ft x 6 ft — that’s been languishing in my “studio” for the past two years, but probably not. Such a large painting will take a lot of paint and I don’t think oil paint manufacture and sales is on the list of necessary businesses. Canvas takes more paint than panel, too.

This is the photo, but I cropped it wrong and shortened the road between the viewer and the tree, so when I paint it I’m planning to put the figure a ways down the road so she doesn’t look like she just got out of my car to take a photo of a tree. One of the things that bothers me about the concept, though, is it might be too Andrew Wyeth. I don’t see the Big Empty in the same way Wyeth seems to have seen his world. His painting reflect it (to me) as kind of a bleak place filled with intimate neutral-toned relics of human life. His paintings of nature convey — to me — a troubled relationship between man and nature.

This is an awesome tree, but…

Andrew Wyeth painting

To me many of his paintings say, “Ethan Frome.” Shudder. It’s not that I don’t SEE that in the numerous dilapidated farms in my valley, the numerous log cabins, the frame and adobe buildings where someone tried to make their stand and find their dreams. The thing is there’s no way to know what happened (unless it’s obvious that there was a fire). As sad as a ruined cabin appears, it’s entirely possible that the people who built it and lived there were very happy.

So, in my painting, I want to capture the isolation of the Big Empty, but also my friend’s (and my) feeling when we saw that amazing tree. There was nothing bleak or sad about it.


28 thoughts on “Pondering Painting a PICTURE of a Tree

  1. When I see a tree such as that one I am amazed at its endurance and stubborn refusal to quit. Living for the sake of being alive despite all the obstacles and tragedies. A very stoic tree.

  2. Although you can paint the tree and try to imbue the painting with your take on the scene it is ultimately the viewer who determines the meaning. I look at some paintings and think “what excellent technique” and others make memories and feeling flood over me. Perhaps the one that touches my heart was a slap dash study as a prelude to a grand masterpiece and the one that is ho hum in my opinion was the culmination of years of work… It is my experiences that filter what I see and feel about a work. I take it you didn’t like Ethan Frome…

    • P.S. I semi-agree with you. I think a painting (story, poem) is also something in its own right, not just the eye of the beholder. I think they can be actual communication with intent on the part of the artist or writer. I think in a great work there is intrinsic meaning. Some great works are very simple. Of course, the audience has to be there to complete the sentence.

  3. Just go for it, paint the big canvas as that tree deserves to be big and large. While you paint put on Dylans Desolation Row Thanks for joining in my prompt Martha 🙂

  4. Looking forward to seeing it. The lighting will affect the modelling of the branches so maybe take photos first at different times of the day. Have you seen David Hockneys tree pictures from a few years ago. He did the same tree stump over and over and also filmed a line of trees throughout the year. X

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.