Shade Tree: #1-3

I took a picture of this tree in the park today. I liked the way the light filtered through the leaves, and how the trunk gradually shifted from a sandy brown to near black. I tried to paint it. Though the paintings were awful, I wanted to post them anyway – because this blog is all about progressing. If you make shit art – good. You made art. That’s more art than 90% of the population made today.

To start, I sketched the tree, to continue practice drawing. Ironically, this is the best representation I made.

I first sketched it with an HB pencil, but I wanted darks. Because I’m lazy, I didn’t get off the couch to grab a charcoal pencil, and instead just pushed as hard as I could trying to turn the HB into charcoal. Needless to say, that didn’t work, so I got off my butt, and grabbed a charcoal pencil.

I was intrigued as I covered over the drawing with charcoal to see how the act of pressing very hard created grooves in the paper, which the charcoal didn’t fill in. This gave an interesting crosshatch pattern to the drawing, and I thought about how to get a similar effect with watercolor.

In an attempt to create that cross hatching affect, I scraped an exacto knife on the paper where I wanted those hatches to appear, and then painted. It worked at first, but only if I didn’t use much pigment. The result was weird, and flat because there was little value contrast. So, I deepened some values, and called that experiment a failure.

I think this is worth trying again, maybe scratch deeper next time, or use more of the scratches. Or maybe scratch it when it’s done to lift pigment and paper in thin lines… I’m not sure, but I’ll noodle around with it a bit I’m sure.

I then mucked about with this painting. I wanted to paint the canopy carefully, trying to match the colors of the leaves in the photo, and avoid the branches and trunk so I could come back later. This failed. I like the way the pigment fell in the grass – and decided to try another version with confident lines and strong colors.

Then I painted this abomination. *HORK* It’s pretty terrible too. But, I really like the grass, and the confident strokes by the trunk of the tree. I like the jewel like quality I got from the aquamarine turquoise in the leaves, but honestly, it’s probably not a style I’ll come back to.

There is something very Chinese Calligraphy going on at the trunk – which I like considerably. I would like to play with that some more.

I also kind of like that the sky is just not there at all. This is a painting of a tree, and the tree is the only thing there. Sure, this means there’s basically no depth to it, but there’s something I like about the way it is almost an illustration instead of a painting.

Look! If you crop out 90% of the painting, you have something almost good!

I’m glad I had a rough time tonight. It shows that I’m willing to keep trying. I’m willing to keep experimenting. And I’m willing to push through the shit and keep going.

I don’t make beautiful paintings often. Most of them are failed paintings, and after eight straight months of failed paintings, it’s hard to think I’ll ever get any better. But, the only way to improve is to keep practicing… so that’s what I’ll do.

I learned that simple washes are much more powerful than fiddling forever on tiny nooks and crannies. I also learned that there is a heaping helping of power in bold confident strokes, if they are applied intentionally. And, I learned that simpler is easier, faster, and more often than not, better.

I’m excited for tomorrow, I get to go see my family on vacation in North Carolina, and I will try to coax my brother into helping me get better.

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