Friday, January 8, 2010

Sycamores & Greys

"Sycamore Grove I" 12x16, oil/panel

"Sycamore Grove II" 12x16, oil/panel

both available through Windrush Gallery
800-323-0115 -

This week in our workshop, we're addressing motifs. We spend two days on a different subject. Today, we finished a series on a particularly beautiful species of tree - the Arizona Sycamore.

Tall with graceful curves that could serve as a model for a roller coaster ride, the sycamore is full of chameleon color. Sometimes they are a creamy yellow, at other times a cool dusky green, and in the shadows, a deep earthy red. If we have rain, the bark can even turn an intense lime-green! But typically, they are full of grey. Yellow-greys, green-greys, red-greys - you name it. It helps to have a puddle of plain old grey on the palette to which you can add color to "push" it toward a particular color family. (Gamblin's Portland Grey Medium is perfect for this.)

These are two paintings I did. The first, done at Red Rock State Park, was on what I call a "breaking overcast" day with mostly grey cloud and spots of sun poking through. The second, done at Crescent Moon Ranch, was an intensely sunny day with deep blue skies. The trees in each case are very different, but they're still the Arizona Sycamore.

I start these trees the way I do the figure, with a gesture sketch. I take a small brush with thinned paint and sketch what one might call the tree's "line of action" as well as the lines of the major branches. Once I'm satisfied with the gesture, I'll take a big brush with opaque, neutral grey paint and trace over them, trying to get the width of the trees and branches right. Next, I put in the dark shadows. I finish by modelling the sunlit areas with different greys.


Marsha Hamby Savage said...

What a nice post. I love portraits of different trees. The Sycamore is beautiful. I love the first one with the little more landscape -- not sure which one it is in your text. The gesture is wonderful and the smaller limbs lend so much to this portrait of a tree.

Thanks for the info on the different greys. Good ideas.

billspaintingmn said...

Nice color.I should try useing grays more in my work.
I like the way it plays off the color in both of these.

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Thanks, Marsha and Bill!