Friday, July 16, 2010


Taking a pastel workshop on Campobella Island, off the northern coast of Maine last week,
I hand the fun of painting water and trees, of how trees adapt to their environment,
and how trees in a limited space,
form their own families.

And so, I was entranced by
The Rock Mound Family,
Notice how the 7 trees
spindle and twist
and lean for their light.

This was a family of trees,
growing up on a little rock island,
off the coast of a little island,
(Campobella is pleasingly small)
in the Fundy Bay.
Notice the differences
as each has its place in the family
but grows in its own way.
And don't we too, growing up in large or small families, grow and adapt in our own individual ways?

The most unusual adaptation on this trip was
The Lollypop Tree.
What actually shaped
this very obvious tree?
Wind and winter ice,
other trees taking its sun space,
or a natural inclination
to grow higher
and get the sun?
Why did it's top blossom out?
What pruned its base?

Since this was a workshop week,
(although this wasn't
one of the paintings I did in class,)
I was thinking and composing the painting
in relation to the feelings I had
in that particular place
at that particular time.
I was alone, the tide
was creeping in around me,
practically at my feet,
and had appeared behind me,
leaving a path up rocks as my escape.
I decided to prune the lollipop tree, in keeping with the others on that island,
and focus on the tide and my own increasingly limited space.

Only later did I think, how much of ourselves do we "prune" or reshape, to "fit in"?
Or does our family somehow require the pruning?
Do we or can we create family communities that let our members develop individually, even when space is limited? But, the other side, it is our environments that shape us, and the shaping
can give us the particular beauty that sets us apart. As parents and grandparents in family groups, how can we encourage individuality, strength and beauty of character, and yet provide some of the "natural" pruning that is necessary to be part of the community we are in?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Forest Light

Step into the woods on a sunny day,

even the smallest patch of trees,
and you have stepped into a light show.

The faintest breeze
shifts the shadows and changes the colors.

Don't just look at the trees...

Look at their trunks,
Their leaves,
Their branches ...
Really see them,
How the leaves seem to float in the sunlight,
and filter the light
and how the sun shines on some trees
and silhouettes others.
On another day,
the same patch of forest
can be entirely different.
Look closely at the trunks,
how they have pinks and grays and purples.

And how the sun
now accents different trees,
and changes the colors of the forest.

Each day,
and different hours in the same day,
give different light shows.
Find a small patch of trees
and take the time to visit it
to really be in it
for only a few minutes
But take that image with you so you can return and notice the changes.

Check for other woodland paintings.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Reaching for Light

People love to live on streets and to walk on paths with lovely arching trees, but it wasn't until I started painting those lovely arching and leaning trees that I realized at least part of the reason they have those arches and bends and leans.

Sitting in the middle of the stream bed to paint the above pastel, I wondered about the straight tree on the left, thicker than the leaning tree and evidently older. I looked closely at the anchoring of the leaning tree and where it's slimmer trunk took it...the anchoring was strong, into the bank, around rocks, and long, stretching almost beyond the roots of the larger, upright tree. And see where the trunk takes it...over the stream into the free sun space.
What survivors trees must be.
How often it is the lean or the twists or the bends that give the tree its with yesterday's Dancing Matriarch. And the metaphor holds for is the hard times that often shape us and make us grow!

So today, when I stepped outside, I headed for a particular path with a slanting tree that would provide a good companion piece to this pastel. But sitting, blocking in the basic shapes of the trees on the path, I looked to my left and saw the granddaddy of twisting trees... not the trunk, but the branches. He will be a companion piece to the dancing matriarch.

Stepping outside and seeing the wonders is very easy. Not so easy is "a painting a day! "

I leave you with both a sketch and a photo of the great granddaddy of twisting and reaching branches. Both the granddaddy and the shaded path, will be subjects of a later blog.
Meanwhile, step outside and see what factor the sun space above a tree plays in its twists and turns and leanings.

And don't forget to check out

Monday, June 14, 2010

Trees Grow in the Darnedest Places

Trees do grow in the darnedest places.
That lonely tree
on the edge of a cliff,
when there are no other trees around.
Why that one,
in that place?

What is the persistence
that helps them
take root in an cave,
surviving on reflected sunlight
until they have built roots
to support the particular lean
that is necessary for the crown to get to sunlight?

How do they build roots in the barren gravel,
in the crevices of the rocks, on the barely jutting ledges?

on the wind blown tops of canyons,

when there doesn't seem to be water for miles?

While others choose the canyon floor and build small forests
on what seems to be only seasonal water?

Although we usually go to canyons to see the canyons,
and admire their color,
we need to pay attention to the plant life,
which adds the contrasts to the red walls
and brings its own particular forms of beauty...
When the Navaho's said, "We walk in beauty," they meant every breathing living part of their environment...
they knew how to be outside, how to appreciate all the beauty.

Check out for more canyon paintings.

Dancing Trees

I love this dancing matriarch.
I found her in a city park in Allentown, limbs swaying in every direction to catch the sun. The younger ones had the occasional curve, but there wasn't a tree in the park that matched her grace.
And her portliness only served to accent the sway.

Parks are good tree watching places because they do provide open areas that often allow trees to spread their limbs.

When you step outside, you can find dancing trees every where.

See if you can find a few...

Check out my website, for other woodland sketches and paintings.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Meet a Tree

Ever notice how every tree has a different shape, a different personality. Like people, some hang together in groups, some lean, some stand straight, some have crooks in their trunks.
Like people they take on different personalities as they respond to their own circumstances through the years. And what better place to observe the absolute variety then in the silhouettes against the evening sky?

And like people, there are always those who prefer
being "On the Edge."

Step outside and choose a few trees to look at for their differences.
Like people on the street, you don't have to know their names to appreciate their differences.

Check out my website,
for other paintings of the Maine Woods.