Trees Are Your Friend

“Just go out and talk to a tree.” “Make friends with it.”
– Bob Ross

Trees. I love them. I admit that sometimes they don’t make the best neighbors… like when they fall on your house, or spread their roots under your foundation, or find their way into your pipes. But, other than a few instances where they cause a problem which they don’t do on purpose, trees are a wonderful gift of nature and actually do provide a unique type of friendship to those that appreciate how special they are.

Sister Trees by Karren Case Art

Yes, trees are your friend.

I haven’t yet found myself actually talking to one, but I have often thought to myself “What things have you seen? What stories could you tell?” while I have stood and studied their uniqueness. I’ve climbed them, fallen out of them, planted them, watched them grow and watched them (sadly) die. I feel a kinship with them and appreciate how special they are as well as their contribution to my well being. I could not live where there weren’t any. It also causes me pain to see them cut down for the sake of putting in another development. I’d rather see trees than more cement and buildings.

When Mr. Ross made his statement, I’m pretty sure he was telling his audience to not be intimidated when painting a landscape involving trees. If you’ve tried (other than grade school) to draw or paint them, trees can be a challenge. I admire those that do them in a realistic manner. Me, I prefer to do them semi-real or in art talk, “representational”. At least that way, the trees won’t be upset that I didn’t paint them accurately. I would not want to offend them. They are my friend. (Truthfully, it’s also how I paint just about everything.)

As an artist, I find that the different shapes, sizes, foliage colors, and changes of trees throughout the seasons to be, in a word, fascinating. I believe this is why they are, and have been for centuries, a popular subject for painters, photographers, and others. Unlike other models, trees don’t charge a sitting fee and they pretty much stay where you want them. They are also easy to find.

Even if you are NOT an artist of some type, get up close to a tree and look at it’s leaves, it’s limbs, it’s bark. That tree’s life, what it has experienced, is often right there if you look hard enough. You can see the good times and the bad times it has experienced. Again, what stories could it tell you. Stories about storms, the stress of drought, the secrets of families in the houses around it , changes to the area before you came along, and stories about those pesky woodpeckers that keep showing up!

Trees are indeed your friend. They do much for us and ask so little in return. Their biology is amazing. The aren’t just wood. Next time you are close to one, say hello. Listen to the sounds they sometimes make. And if you are so inclined, hug one.

Walk This Way: Following Your Path.

Walk This Way

When I was younger, I loved hiking. I actually still do, though my stamina is really crappy now. Anyway…. not the serious gotta have a backpack, camping gear, GPS, bear repellant, etc. kind of hiking. I’m talking about the kind where you just go out and follow a path or two through a state park, local park, or the woods behind your house. There’s something freeing about venturing forth, water in hand, to just explore where the path leads you.

Life is full of paths too.

Following Your Path: Have a Plan

Here’s the thing with me and maybe with you too. I don’t blindly forge ahead. I make sure that the path I want to take is doable. I don’t want to get lost or hurt following it. So I plan… usually. Yes, it’s exciting to step off the path and see “what’s over there”, as long as you keep a firm eye on where you were, so you can get back on it. Lost is not a fun thing to be.

Following Your Path: Keep Moving

Your career, your hobby, your art, your hike in the woods should never be stagnant. Not moving gets you nowhere. Enjoy the stops to rest, explore, enjoy the view…. but keep moving forward. When I look at my artwork from years ago to where I am now, I see all the paths I took to get here. And I see how I kept moving forward. Occasionally, I see where I got off the path, but I managed to get back on it. I didn’t give up getting to where I wanted to go and I’m still exploring as I journey on.

So… follow your path, plan for new ones, take a break if needed, but keep moving.

Painting Like a Child

The Fun of Whimsical Painting

I was at the LAST Art Gallery in historic downtown McKinney (TX) today when a customer walked around and mentioned how delighted she was that we had a young child artist’s work on the wall.

Excuse me???

Well, the artwork she was referring to was NOT that of a young child, but was produced by a respected, long-time artist that (as a member pointed out) is just young at heart. Much of this artist’s work is whimsical paintings, drawings, and collages. If she had been there, I’m sure she would have laughed. Because that’s what the intent is. To make you smile or to make you laugh.

Camo Dog

Whimsical Painting is Letting Your Inner Child Come Out to Play

We ALL have an inner child. Some hear it calling and some don’t. I have to admit that I hear mine calling pretty often. Okay, daily. I hear it daily. I also admit that I give in to it. Not so much in public, but definitely at home. And in some of my artwork.

I also have to admit my inner child is quite spoiled from getting it’s way so much. From some of the artwork that I have seen at various art shows… it’s pretty evident that others give in to theirs as well. And the results are often delightful.

Painting Like A Child Isn’t Child’s Play

Whimsical, silly, artwork might sometimes look like a child did it, but in truth, it is quite often done by someone with a practiced eye for composition, color, mark making, and all the other technical stuff…even though they’re bending and blending the rules. It’s also popular. Not everyone wants a serious portrait, landscape, or still life. Some of us still enjoy high fives with our seven year old selves.

I do want to say one more thing.

Artwork of any kind actually done by a child is a precious gem from a treasure chest and I hope you let them know how much you appreciate what they created. Encourage, praise, nurture. You never know… they might grow up, become an artist, and have someone say how delighted they are seeing the “child’s” artwork on display in a gallery somewhere.

Painting Trees: The Tree Amigos

I love trees. I find myself including them more and more in my paintings, which is a real change for me because I never felt good at doing so in the past. However, you know what they say about practice. Thousands of people regularly paint trees so obviously there’s a lot of practice going on. Painting trees is hugely popular with artists. So many interpretations! Trees are also a popular subject with poets and other writers.

Advice From A Tree

Stand tall and proud.
Sink your roots into the earth.
Be content with your natural beauty.
Go out on a limb.
Drink plenty of water.
Remember your roots.
Enjoy the view.
– Ilan Shamir

The Tree Amigos: It Didn’t Start This Way!

When I started this one, I had no intention of painting trees. It actually began with the idea of a rainy day and a child under an umbrella. That’s all. No trees. Just a little girl ( which became two) under a large umbrella. And that’s what I did! I had mixes of blues, violets, grays, whites on my palette and with my palette knives, laid on my background then when dry enough, added the figures. However, the composition bothered me. Therefore, I swiped through it all, removed a lot of the paint, and in the chaos of colors I saw a street scene. I worked that idea for a while, but didn’t like that either. It just didn’t speak to me. Actually it did speak to me… it said “noooooo”. So I scraped and wiped and re-swiped the colors and sat back and just looked at it for several minutes. That’s when I started seeing trees in the shapes. Trees and water and sky. So I started developing the shapes and moving colors around. In the end, I had a painting of three trees which I finally named The Tree Amigos.

Speaking of Trees

If you google it, you’ll find that there are over 60,000 tree species in the world. The ten most common in the U.S. are the Red Maple, the Loblolly Pine, Sweetgum, Douglas Fir, Quaker Aspen, Sugar Maple, Balsam Fir, Flowering Dogwood, Lodgepole Pine, and the White Oak.

A lot of lovely subjects if you like painting trees. I guess I had better get to practicing.

Purple At Sunset: The Painting

Purple At Sunset
oil and cold wax painting

It’s rare that I start an oil and cold wax painting with an idea already in mind. I usually throw on a base color and then start slapping down a combination of other colors until shapes emerge that kind of direct how the painting turns out.

However, (surprise!) this time I had a definite idea of what I wanted to paint… a sunset evolving into shades of purple as night falls. So, with inspiration from many beautiful photos of purple at sunset, I just had to pull out my purple, magenta, orange, and white tubes of paint, my palette knives, a brush, and get to mixing and painting!

To me, it’s no wonder that so many artists, photographers, and writers find themselves moved to express themselves in some way after, or while, they watch a setting sun. Sunsets are one of nature’s many gifts of color to those who choose to stop and look. Color which changes in the richness of tones depending on the weather, the seasons, and things in the sky or on the ground which reflect those colors. It’s a glorious transition of light to dark as the sun dips below the horizon line.

I love sunsets. I like to paint them (or attempt to) and I like to take photos of them… especially when there are clouds in the sky. They are just too lovely to ignore! Are you a fan of sunsets? Do they move you in any way? Maybe you prefer to watch the sun rise? Those are lovely too, if you’re a morning person. I don’t see too many sunrises now. I’m retired. I get to sleep in.

Evolution of an Unplanned Painting

Plan? What Plan?

Most of the artists I know start with a plan. They sketch out what they intend to paint, either from real life, a photo, or a design they come up with. It’s probably the smarter thing to do; however, that’s not usually how it works for me. I tend to just “wing it”. I find I get a lot more enjoyment out of a session if I just slap down some marks and colors, then step back and just look at it for a few minutes. Because within those few minutes, I start seeing things and what is on the canvas starts to “talk to me” (not literally, I’m not hearing things… most of the time… that would be creepy).

I Start With Colors

I mixed up a palette of blues and lavenders, then threw in some white and black. After several minutes of moving colors around, shapes started to form. I backed up and stared at it as I began to see either a treeline or rocks and what might be a horse in the foreground of the painting. Yay! A start!

I Look At Shapes

As you can see, the black area did not want to be a treeline. It wanted to be rocks and cliffs. (Okay, my brain wanted it to be rocks and cliffs.) So, I added oranges and browns to my color palette and worked on the main shapes. The horse shape is still there since I think I can work with that.

Now, however, the horse bolted and two cows showed up. Again, I am letting the scene evolve as I play with it. By this point, I have a good idea where I’m going to wind up. Some kind of a Southwest scene. Memories of Arizona now start running through my head.

Get Along Little Doggies

The cows drove me nuts. On this particular day, I could not get the illusion of bovines on my canvas. So off they went to graze somewhere else. The evolution of this unplanned painting is almost complete. I just need to work a bit on the foreground and keep the animals corralled.

The Final Painting?

I’d like to say this is where I wound up, but as usual, after letting it sit for a week I did come back and do a little more touching up where I felt it needed it. I’d show you, but the changes aren’t that much.

To end with an update… the painting now has a mat and is framed. For this one, the evolution is complete.