Are You A Tree Hugger, Too?



Looking Towards Home 9” x 12″
© 2009 Marianne  Post

A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. 

–John Muir



I’ll admit it. I’m in a love affair with trees. And that’s the reason I paint them. They can be majestic, deep rooted, or vunerable and hedging their bet against the wind and the blistering heat. They can provide us with shelter, they open their limbs so that others take refuge, and they can collapse and take the less sturdy with them. For me, they are a metaphor of life. In my upcoming “Painting the Elements” pastel class we have a whole session devoted to painting the character of trees throughout the seasons.

I know one of the more difficult things for myself as a landscape painter has been how to capture the nature of trees without getting caught up in every limb and leaf. Their mass can almost seem impenetrable, but to render their form while creating a sense of space is a challenge. The best way I know to paint trees is to study them. I mean really study them. Take a walk with a camera, or better yet a sketchbook and notice their structure first and then their shape. A California Black Oak  with its gnarly branches and multiple trunks oozes with character. The elegance of a birch reminds me of the limberness of a dancer as its leaves and boughs gently bow to the wind. For the serious student, the best book I have ever found on the subject is Drawing Trees by Stanley Malzman. 

Trees can suggest emotions as well as design. Leave it to the great French impressionists, Monet, Renoir, and Cezanne to name just a few, to capture the emotional side of trees. They had a knack for humanizing them. Artists like Caspar David Friedrich and Hiroshige could make a painting alive with their designs of trunks and limbs.

So go out and hug a tree. They are the oldest of living things. Open you eyes to their beauty. Take a deep breath and thank a tree, for they replenish the air we breathe. Listen to their song, they could be playing your tune.


5 Responses to “Are You A Tree Hugger, Too?”

  1. vickiemartin Says:

    I will go out and hug a tree. With the crazy weather we have been having in Atlanta, there seem to be more and more on the ground! I like your use of links – learning so much in blog triage! Playing catchup right now!

  2. Vickie Martin Says:

    Hey Marianne, I have the Bruce Baker CD’s and I try to listen to them periodically. They have been helpful. You can get your submissions critiqued through Ronay, and Bruce Baker is one of the people that does it, so I’ve sent in my money for it – because i haven’t been accepted into a single zaplication show, so there is something wrong with my submissions! But – thanks for your thoughts on my blog!

  3. Linda Loder Says:

    oh Marianne!!
    Your trees just sing to me like the poem. You do a truly amazing job with each one I have seen you do. I have been in awe of them all of my life. I remember driving my first baby up to the redwoods to stare at the trees when she was probably 4 months or so old. She got so excited that I wanted her to see the big ones!
    I understand how daunting it is to produce their issue of amazing presence they pose – to even glimmer on the paper. Hmmm an endless challenge. No, they are not all alike, each one of them when you look at them to capture them are sooooo different.

    It makes me so happy to see you having so much success with your fabulous art, you really deserve it. One of the things that I have gotten out of being a part of CPSA for so long has been the great artists and people I have been lucky enough to meet and get to know. I love watching you.

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