When you sit down to draw or paint a tree, it can be tempting to create only from memory. While this can work if your mind is able to see a three dimensional type structure, it can also end up looking two flat and cartoonish. In the paintings below, I used a photo for the sketch of the first two trees, and used my imagination for the third.
I like all three of these trees, as they have some interesting overlap and variety in the branches. It has taken practice to get the branches crisscrossing enough in an imaginary tree. I still find that I can get overly repetitive in my work, particularly when I'm tired or distracted. Being "inconsistent" in the shapes can be more difficult than being overly symmetrical!
You might find that you're making your trees into lollipop shapes, or triangles, or just that they all look the same. Go for a walk and study some trees, particularly in the winter when the branches are bare, to get a sense of what they really look like. Take some photos to draw from later. Or sit out in nature with a pencil or whatever, and just sketch some trees for practice.
As you practice, focus on the shape of the branches as this is what tends to give trees their personalities. They are so unique and interesting!
When it's time to paint something new, it's helpful to have a strategy before tackling a difficult challenge on a large canvas. For this project, my goal was to paint a bald eagle with an interesting background, on a medium to large canvas. Because I hadn't painted a bald eagle before, and they are very particular with the white head and stern face, I wanted to practice small. I made these three 8x8" canvases to practice, but also to have as finished works of art in their own right. I love how they turned out. I used pieces of ripped paper in the backgrounds, then acrylic paint with stencil patterns. And painted the birds in acrylic paint as the feature.
Once I got my confidence up with the smaller pieces, I was ready to try my larger canvas. I created this fairly quickly, as I was in the "bald eagle zone" already! This painting is fully acrylic, no papers at all, but has a similar feel.
Resilience 18x24" has already been juried into a show!
People often ask me where I get my art ideas. Oh, so many places! From walks in nature. From movies. From books. From the internet. From my dreams. From art classes. From art galleries. From thrift stores. From anywhere.
For example, I've been painting birds lately. But during the pandemic I needed something to do to keep my hands busy while I watch TV in the evenings (also to cut back on the potato chip munching). So I got this cute little cross-stitch set, and sat stitching chickadees. By the end, I was totally inspired to go create a colorful chickadee painting, without worrying too much about the scene being realistic. Just have it be pretty and artistic, and something that I love.
Art ideas and inspiration are all around us. Just do whatever strikes your fancy, and see what comes of it. Maybe you want to bake bread, then paint some toast! Or paint your favorite type of car. Our art is meaningful when it is connected to something that we care about. And that list can be long, so don't worry about pegging yourself into one type of art or one subject matter.
What to do when someone asks you to paint something scary? In this case, the subject was familiar to me, being a Great Blue Heron. But the SIZE of the canvas was something new altogether. The commission called for a 6 foot by 5 foot painting, which is... well large. It was so large that Opus didn't carry anything pre-made. We bought our own stretcher bars and canvas, and did the assembly in my studio. Then I just pretended it was a regular painting and got started in my usual process of sketch, then first layer of solid color, then more layers to blend and add details.
While it may have been easier to decline this large commission, I was actually quite excited about it, and it was certainly a growth opportunity as an artist. When facing a new scary commission or task, ask yourself whether you have enough resources and support to get it done, and whether you want to. If both those are yes, then you can make it happen!
I had a great experience this summer at the Artist's Walk in White Rock BC. Because of the covid pandemic, things were somewhat different than normal, with masks when in close proximity, and limitations on gathering. But it was so nice to get outside and to show my art. And to paint by the beach!
Some things that I needed to think about were:
This is a new venture for me, and I loved it! I'm looking forward to continuing, weather permitting. I don't think I'll have a winter booth. :)