I have always been drawn to the forest. Growing up, there were no proper forests in walking distance, but there was a ramshackle wood of trees and weeds that had sprung up behind my apartment building. Intermixed within this wood were clinging grapevines, a stream of gutter runoff, the stump of a once proud elm, (which you could climb down into) and various maple and honey locust trees.
Trees have always held a special place in my paintings. More and more I’ve found myself drawn to creating them texturally through a variety of media. In this way, I could further the theme or idea behind a painting, by incorporating media that supports this theme. For example, adding metal keys to the trunk of a tree to further explore the idea of secrets, or crushed shell to the texture on a mermaid’s tail.
By now I have a few favorite media to work with when creating forests and trees, but I really wanted to push myself and my creativity.
I decided to experiment by creating a series of mini tree paintings. Each tree would explore different materials and relate to the idea of enchanted forests.
To begin, I decided to limit myself to using materials that I already own. As an artist, I hold onto all kinds of bits and bobs, buttons, beads, broken jewelry, interesting papers, pressed leaves, tissue papers, etc. I also tend to save certain materials for ‘that special artwork’ leading me to never use them. Well no more. All my materials have become fair game for this series.
I began by sketching the main tree onto the wood panel. I used the oak trees outside my window as reference. Then I layered crackle medium onto the tree. I’ve only worked with crackle medium a little before, but it seemed perfect for building textured tree bark. On one tree, I tried a thin layer, which produced smaller cracks, and on the other, a thicker layer, which produced larger cracks.
I used crackle medium for the first three trees and experimented with different materials for the foliage.
For the first tree I added tiny metallic black seed beads from a bracelet I’d been saving. The layered beads worked perfectly with the smaller crackled bark and blues I’d chosen for the background.
I was excited to try using some beautiful homegrown popcorn for the second tree. I used an heirloom variety of corn called, Glass Gem. I made sure to seal this one extra well, as I don’t want my painting to sprout in a couple years from now.
While I liked the effect of the corn, I found that it would look better in a larger painting. It almost overpowered the tree in the 6”x8” size. I had to go back and add thicker branches to balance the painting.
I spent more time on the third tree. I wanted to try working with pearlescent beads, which I have never collaged with before. I started by stripping some vintage pearl earrings. These were seriously chunky earrings! One earring supplied beads for the whole tree. I mixed the beads with some clear glass beads to add a bit of contrast, and then focused on the painted part.
Because of the pearls, I painted a shy beta fish and a watery background. I then went back into the foliage adding tiny gold caviar beads, and pearlescent paint. The bits of gold really helped the whites to pop, and not feel too cold.
I began a fourth tree where I tried layering crackle paste over tissue paper. I didn’t add enough past to make much crackling. For the foliage I aimed for weeping willow, but tried adding glitter. It did not end well. So far it’s in a disaster state awaiting inspiration to strike, so I can rescue it.
I’m very glad I took the time to try experimenting with these new materials on a small scale. I learned a lot, without the pressure of messing up a large painting.
As I worked on these trees, my mind kept coming up with ideas for other enchanted little trees. I can’t wait to explore them next.
The first three mini trees will be available for viewing and purchase through the Art Center of Burlington from starting in mid February.