Distilling the Essence of a Summer Tree en Plein Air

Summer Tree en Plein Air

It’s bloody hot in Texas already, registering daily triple-digits for about two weeks now.  I was spoiled in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas the past two weeks, waking to morning temperatures in the 70’s.   Today I decided to give plein air a try anyway, from the open door of my garage.  Standing in the shadow, I looked at my next-door-neighbor’s tree in the sun, taking in the warm sunlit leaf patterns, and peering into the cool, dark shadows where limbs and boughs were barely visible.  Quickly assembling my portable easel, I gave it a try.

I have always been dissatisfied with my watercolor handling of leafed-out trees (naked ones too–I just don’t like the way I “do” trees).  Nature’s green has frustrated me as a painter my entire life.  Therefore, I decided to wrestle only with the crown of this one tree, and do my best to match colors with its grandeur.  I spent the entire morning trying to sort out the reddish-tinted greens from the gold-tinted ones.  I also tried to find out what combinations of colors will “work” in the shadows.  I took my sweet time on this one, thoroughly enjoying the experience, though not certain of the painting’s outcome.

I spent some time during rest breaks (allowing the watercolor to dry) reading Xie He’s Six Canons of painting from the early 6th century.  I was trying my best to distill the essence of this particular tree crown that I was studying all morning.

Maybe I’ll decide by tomorrow what I think of this one.  I’m not satisfied, but am not sure just yet what is bothering me about this painting.  I believe it a worthy goal this summer while out of school to attempt to “solve” my tree-and-natural-green problem.

Thanks for reading.  It was an enjoyable morning for painting.


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2 Responses to “Distilling the Essence of a Summer Tree en Plein Air”

  1. Li_B (@lifesastitch) Says:

    I know this is an older post, but I have been enjoying reading through your blog, especially with respect to Hopper’s style and studying your approach to trees. I chuckled when I read this post regarding your feelings about painting trees. The artist is truly his own worst critic. Thank you for a high quality blog.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Wow, thank you for saying all that. I’m glad someone appreciates Hopper’s work, and thank you for speaking favorably about my tree attempts. Yes, I am probably my own worst critic, and hopefully that enables me to improve sooner rather than later. Thank you again.


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