Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bare Trees

Edge of the Woods - Dusk
18 x 24

Spring is coming to Lennox Woods. A light haze of budding out branches envelops the Woods in a shear whisper of pale greens and reds. But, I am still painting autumn and winter. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will be painting at least a season behind for the next 18 months or so. Of course, I am gathering reference in the form of drawings and studies with the season, but finished studio work moves at a slower pace.

So even though the trees in the Woods are budding out, those in my studio are bare. Or, they are autumn trees losing their leaves rather than leafing out. One of the challenges I worried about was how to depict nearer bare trees without noodling them to death and perhaps spoiling the mood and look I am after. The answer was found in drawing them (like the answer to so many other things!).

All images can be clicked on for a larger view.

Well, not just drawing, but it starts with drawing. The treatment of the nearer trees really is more of a drawing issue. You want to show the roundness of the tree by making sure your limbs and branches come out from the trunk in all directions. You have to think carefully about the smaller limbs and twigs and really design them as well. I will usually leave that until I have painted the sky a couple of times and I am getting toward the end. I will also then, scumble back over them to keep them soft but not obliterate them. And the edges, while soft, aren't completely lost.

What I found was that drawing them really helped because I got comfortable with the form and their gesture, then when I needed to simplify and edit out all the clutter I had a much better idea of how to do that.

As you go back into the picture plane and you are massing the trees, then the solution becomes more of a painting issue. In that case I will often have to come back in and put the tree tops back in after painting the sky, then glaze and scumble over the whole thing once its dry.


  1. Thanks for posting this, Deborah. I love the really subtle and unusual effects you get with scumbling and glazing.

  2. This was a great example of how careful drawing of elements can be a good way to problem solve. I like how scumbling softens edges.

  3. Thank you for sharing your process! I love the dreamy mystery you create with your technique!

  4. It is fascinating to see how the painting is built up. The early inspiration of the edge of the woods and time of day. The drawings which shows us how you have got to know your trees well and how you are handling painting the trees into the sky area. Interesting that the studio works rest within the winter season yet you walk out to meet the new life forming in the forest on your visits there. You will be busy drawing and making notes of the early spring time it tends to happen so quickly almost making daily changes as the weather becomes milder.