| 12 April, 2016 09:11
Spring is the season to enter many of the national watercolor exhibitions, the first on my list being the Adirondacks National Exhbiti of American Watercolors. It always serves as an impetus to paint a larger, more involved painting. This year I decided to revisit what I've nicknamed the "Ancient Seed Tree" which lives in a field near Hoxie Gorge. The will to survive in the face of old age and decay that this tree demonstrates has impressed me every time I see it. I used two reference photos to begin, one of the tree itself and one I found somewhere on the internet of lightning. I felt the bright blinding light in the center of the bolt would provide a good focal point for the striking peak of the old trunk. I wished to convey the storms this tree has weathered without showing a direct lightning strike. Look for the first in-progress image tomorrow!.
I decided to paint this on a large (35 inch by 23 inch) sheet of Yupo paper so the painting could evolve as my thoughts and reactions evolve. Yupo paper, originally designed for commercial use, was quickly discovered by artists. It's a polypropylene sheet that is 100% recyclable, and important for watercolorists, completely non-absorbent. The paint doesn't soak into the sheet but remains on the surface, which means the colors are brighter and can very easily be lifted off with water back to the original white surface. Water and a rag act as a magic eraser!
I don't draw any preliminary sketch. I begin with what I'm planning to be a focal point - the striking tip of main trunk of the tree with its hole surrounded by an irregular bright area resulting from the lightning. I want to paint an active, threatening sky with lots of texture. It feels good to have the painting under way!
I've quickly sketched in the tree using watercolor and a small brush. I'll refine it quite a few times. I've simplified the tree's structure to emphasize the large "wishbone" limb that fell off and straddled a lower one. I'm thinking about a tornado on the right in the sky and have added streaking rain below the storm clouds. I've also begun working on the lightning. With a small brush, clean water and a rag, I can easily lift out lightning bolts back to the white of the paper.
I keep developing the tree and changing the sky a bit with more lightning. I feel like all's a big balancing act! I'm not sure I like the full-blown tornado to the right of the tree. I keep adding a bit of paint at the bottom to try to come up with a compositional design I like. I think I'll have the horizon drop from left to right.
I'm getting close to completing this painting! I'm almost finished with the tree including adding another large fallen branch on the right to balance the composition - easy to do on Yupo. I made the bright lightning-lit spot less circular and more irregular. I removed the tornado because it simply seemed like too many ideas and images to place in one painting. I added suckers on the large branches to amplify the "Regeneration: the Ancient Seed Tree" theme. I'm still thinking about the foreground. I eventually want to get some green in it to change the season more obviously toward spring.
Here is the finished painting, "Regeneration: the Ancient Seed Tree," 35 inches by 23 inches on Yupo paper.