Trees have their own microclimates. Last spring I walked over a small hill by the roadside and descended into the atmosphere of this large sprawling gum. Gumtrees spread out in their gangly wild way, filling space. I admire how they are just themselves, filling space and breathing. They have presence. This tree felt cool and luscious, inviting me to pause before the shimmering grasses beyond. I wondered if I could paint the atmosphere of this tree? Was that too crazy?
I started a plein air study and returned to it a couple of times so I could be with the tree. My plein air studies really give me a chance to look closely at colours and how they sit next to each other. How colours change as the air warms up and light shifts through the day. I didn’t finish this study in one go.
Plein air study for tree atmosphere
Oil painting on canvas
20cm x 25cm
With my half finished study I returned to my studio, fresh with the experience. I began the larger featured painting, knowing it would take me a couple of months. I worked from memory, my study and sometimes photo references. When I reached the limit of my memory I knew the tree was calling me again. Off I went with my plein air study to feel and talk with the tree atmosphere. Eventually I understood enough for my studio painting to complete itself.
Some months later I returned to visit the tree in mid-summer. Her atmosphere had completely changed. It was like I had painted her portrait and now I was discovering another side to her. The atmosphere was hot and dry, grass dead and earth exposed. The ground was covered in roadside litter, but the tree was still being. I realised how I had been on a journey with this tree over many months. That journey now exists in my memory and in these paintings.
On July 1st I’m having an exhibition of my small paintings, most of them are plein air studies. This exhibition will only be up for about 2-3 hours. That’s how long it takes me to paint an outdoor study. It’s a Pop-up Exhibition at the Fleurieu Arthouse in Mclaren Vale. All paintings will be for sale at very affordable prices. I’ll be giving an artist talk at 2.30pm on plein air painting. So mark it in your diary if you would like to join me. You will be most welcome. More to come soon.
Thanks for reading.
The featured image is TREE ATMOSPHERE. It’s an oil painting on linen. 49cm x 37cm