The history of the demise of this tree can be seen in its contorted shape. A long time ago, possibly 80 years, the stream undermined this ash tree and it fell. However it survived and continued to grow, changing its direction of growth to vertical. At the same time a previously minor lower branch became the dominant trunk and as most of the effort of growth was directed into this branch the original tree died. What I liked about this scene was the reflections of the unusual shapes produced by this little drama of life and death.
I haven’t painted a vertical shaped painting in a while as the landscape shape suits the shape of the video screen. This arrangement worked out well as most of what was happening on the palette could be seen as the painting progressed. As I have said before I like to let colours evolve from one into the next in a progression. In actual fact the entire painting is painted from the same ‘pool’ of colour. I say ‘pool’ because of the amount of solvent I’m using.
Not all the paint mixes are this wet. Sometimes the initial very wet solvent layers are allowed to evaporate before completely dry paint is brushed on top. This is how I paint the sky or any part of the painting needing a soft treatment (the under colour of the river was also solvent rich). When it comes to details as in branches or grasses the paint flows like watercolour (with solvent of course). As I said in the last post this is not the traditional method of oil painting and is only safe (from later cracking or flaking) if applied as a single wet layer, ‘alla prima’ as its called.
For beginners this is difficult as there are no ways of covering up or wiping off mistakes. You get one shot at painting that tree into the wet sky so it has to be left as you put it down, warts and all. But isn’t this how watercolour artists work, so its not an impossible skill to master with practice.
The colours are Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Umber and French Ultramarine Blue plus black and white. I’m not using any medium at all, only solvent.
Here’s the video, see you soon.