I love the curve of a twisted tree far more than a straight trunked tree and have been achingly wanting to paint a twisted tree for some months now since I had seen a particular tree that was powerfully inspiring me. But the art that I want to do sometimes has to wait if a commission comes in forÂ a client.Â
This week though, I was able to fulfil my desire to complete the painting I had in mind.
I knew that I wanted it to be predominately red, with some oranges, yellows, pinks and purples as details, and I knew I wanted the trunk to be black, pure black, as a silhouette through the leaves. Which is fine to a degree but makes the picture look heavy and means the trunk and boughs would look dead which wasn’t the idea behind it, I wanted hints of faces and other shapes in the bark, so that meant thinking of a way of achieving that effect without losing the black contrast. The answer lay in Indian Ink, a dark luscious medium that gives a gorgeous warm black that still has life in it, but is a superb contrast to any colour put against it. I decided that I would get a better effect more like a tree if I didn’t apply the ink with a brush, so used a cocktail stick instead since it is made of wood which would add to the arboreal aspect of the picture. I dipped the tip of it into the ink and applied it,Â very small areas at a time since it wasn’t picking up much of the ink, but that made the bark and tiny twigs look scratchy which was the result I wanted.Â
The leaves on the trees were actually painted in watercolour before the ink was applied, and I knew there was no room at all for error with the Indian Ink, once it’s on, its an immoveable force and cannot be removed, so any errors would show straight away. Fortuanely I’ve enough expereicne, took my time, Â and didn’t make any mistakes. To get the effect of the leaves I wetted the whole of the area with water and gently poured the paint on to give clumps of colour, each of the reds, yellows, oranges and purples merging together on the paper, Â and to encourage them to look more leaf like I sprinkled rock salt crystals which move the paint and create distinctive flowery shapes, ideal for my indented leaves I felt. Keeping the whole thing still and flatÂ was the next important step, and the following day once it had all dried I could add more paint for the outside leaves and hints of images within the tree itself. I know I have hidden some things within it, but I love the fact that other people always find creatures and faces that I have not planned. That adds to the magic, for me.
I finished off the painting, adding the aged roots, and the hint of grass and mosses at the foot of the tree, the ethereal sky beyond it was important too, a hazy nothingness that added to the landscape but didn’t detract from the tree.
It’s called “Tree of dreams” – and its important that its painted on a downward slope, as sometimes our dreams don’t come to the plateau that we were hoping for, and slide away from us. BUT, the roots of the tree show that it is powerfuly clinging on to the hillside, resolutely strong and full of hope, the tree faces up the slope, showing the way forward and reaching out to our dreams, hopes and desires.
Â So what can you see in it?