Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Sycamore" -- plein air field study -- 16x20" -- oil on canvas -- Margie Guyot

I woke up this morning at 5, thinking about the giant sycamore tree I'd seen at Cranbrook Gardens. I sprang out of bed (well, moved as quickly as a 55-year-old can), excited at the thought of going to paint it. 2 months ago I found a group that meets at the Cranbrook Gardens every Tuesday morning. I went to paint with them once, then had several trips in the following weeks and totally forgot about them. Forgetting names, titles of books, movies -- it's amazing how much one seems to forget at this age! But this morning I remembered Cranbrook, the painting group and this monster-sized sycamore. By golly, I'm going!

Michigan's mired in another miserable heat wave. It got up to 93 degrees today. My ancestors were of colder climates, and I must have a genetic dislike of heat. I loaded my painting gear into my "old lady" collapsible grocery cart and pulled it down steps and wood chip paths to The Tree.Yes, I could carry it all, but why suffer? After baking in the sun last weekend up at the big paint-out affair in Petosky, shade was what I wanted. Happily, I found a shady nook in the bushes behind the sycamore.

Rather than attempting to paint the whole tree, I chose this closeup view of the powerful trunk area. If I'd painted the whole tree, it would have had to be painted so small to fit onto the canvas that you wouldn't notice the interesting bark patterns. The bark reminds me of a giraffe's markings. Chunks of this thin bark layer molts off, littering the ground. This scene shows the tree back-lit. The large leaves were glowing bright, pale yellow and green in the strong sunlight. There was a dried-out lawn expanse in the background, with a thick stand of cool-blue pines across the field.

I got this home, looked at it and thought the leaves looked too dark. I took it up to my studio and wiped the paint away from the leaf portion, down to the bare canvas. Then re-painted the bright yellow leaves so they seemed to glow more. People might be surprised at how much wiping-off we painters do. We go through LOTS of paper towels! That's the great thing about oil paint. It dries so slowly, you can wipe away things you don't like and repaint. Like getting a fresh, clean start. It works out better to do it this way than to try to glob on more paint on top of thick, gooey wet paint. I watched a friend attempting to do do this up at Petosky and I just wanted to grab his brush away & fix his painting for him! Ah, sometimes you just have to turn & walk away.....

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