Thursday, November 13, 2008

The End of Apples

The cold weather has begun to pour in. Thick, bluish clouds gather, letting only a glimmer of sunlight through. Even the sunlight seems cold. The apple trees over in Friar's Head meadow hang onto the last, few apples of the year. Pithy and scarred by worm and frost, they will provide winter meals for the squirrels.

I took some time off this afternoon from other projects to paint. The apple trees are beautifully sculptural, especially now that the leaves are gone. I found one that I liked best, and set up my easel.

"End of the Apples" 9x12, oil, en plein air

These apple trees have gone feral. Unmanaged, unpruned, their limbs and twigs weave a wild basket, full of holes. How do you paint something like that? I start off with a gestural sketch with thin paint to establish the rhythm of the limbs. Next, I block in the entire shape of the tree, solid. After that, I poke in a few "sky holes" with the color of the background clouds, sky and water. I return to the tree and repaint a few key limbs. Then it's back to the sky holes, taking care that I don't give the tree an unintentional shape. (It's so easy to go awry when chipping away.) I go back and forth between limbs and background until the tree has the shape I want. It really is a weaving process, not unlike the way the limbs themselves have grown.

At the end, I paint the apples. I start with darkish, greenish blots and gradually lighten them with spots of dull yellow and red. There are so many of them in the tree, but I paint fewer to enhance the idea that the season is drawing to an end.

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