Tree Studies

For the longest time I've wanted to do an entire series of studies focusing on trees - just trees... single trees, groups of trees, macro views of bark, tree trunks, tree roots, various leaves and how the light falls on groups of leaves. Some trees seem to shimmer in the light while others have a distinctly light absorbing quality. I've always loved the various shapes, colors, and sizes but I can't say I understand them very well, at least from the perspective of an artist. Being primarily interested in botanical subjects in general, I've felt for some time that I need to do a serious study of trees and get to know a variety of species.

So I've just started my tree studies. Here are a few. I have been painting in the mornings before work in Palo Alto with a couple of really talented and passionate coworkers - kindred spirits in the brotherhood of paint. I've also been painting on Saturday mornings, early, and usually in the late evening on Saturdays on my nightly walk. 

These days my medium of choice for plein air is pastel, a medium I've fallen in love with over and over again. Painting with pastels feels so natural, like playing with crayons or colored pencils until I get something close to what I want. I can't say I ever feel that way with oil. There is also something really neat about seeing a giant box of pastel colors together that makes me feel good. It feels like harmony.

Hilly bank in Palo Alto, pastel on toned paper. I think I spent about 3 hours on this.

A little tree, maybe an aspen, in the parking lot where I work, Disney Interactive. Pastel, about 1.5 hours.

Tree on the bank of Lake Merced in the late afternoon, just off the side of the path near the parking lot on Sloat. Pastel, about 2 hours.

This was a majestic evergreen variety that I was looking up at from the parking lot at work. Not the best perspective to be painting at. I tried to compensate for the foreshortening but I'm not sure it worked. I also painted this on sanded pastel paper. I don't like sanded paper at all. It just grabs up a ton of the pastel pigment and is difficult to blend soft edges. 
Pastel, about 2 hours

Lake Merced in the evening. Another pastel on sanded paper. I started to get the hang of the paper here a little more than the previous pastel, however it occurred to me that if what I want is thick texture as the paper seems to provide, I may as well just paint in oil. I enjoyed the light in this one a lot. The San Francisco Zoo and Ocean Beach are just beyond those far trees, one of my favorite places in the city.

 As I painted this scene a giant raccoon creeped around my blanket looking for food. Dogs would smell something but not see the raccoon near my set up and would snarl and bark while their owners yanked them on chains. I felt like the raccoon and I were enjoying this little hidden view together. A unique experience. Usually I'm swatting flies and flicking ants off of my pants and hoping ticks haven't crawled down my back for a nice cool drink of O-. 

 Hopefully in a few weeks I will have more than a few more studies. I've also realized this year that 2013 is my 20th year of working as a professional artist and illustrator. I'd like to commemorate that that soon and share some of the early work I did painting backgrounds in animation - a great job that I owe just about everything to in regards to landscape painting and just being an adult. 

Thanks for stopping by!


Tegan Clancy said...

These trees are amazing and you have completely captured the beauty and uniqueness with the colour and lighting. Amazing. Would love to see more

DebraZ said...

What particular box of pastels do you use?

julia lundman said...

Hi Debra,

I use Terry Ludwig pastels. I took a class with Bill Cone a few years ago, who introduced the class to the pastel brand. They are expensive but wow are they great pastels. Like no others. I originally purchased the basic landscape set of 60. That set served me very well for a few years and then I added on from there.

I use just canson pastel paper and heilman box to paint with.