Friday, May 14, 2010

Dreaming of Trees

These are the trees that shape the lines of my paintings: their twistings and windings in fractal-like patterns, their beautifully contorted randomness. I consciously paint them all the time, letting my pen and brush trace the curves and wispy twigs of live oaks. Those elegant tendrils trailing into knotted strands of a spirit's beard, or reaching out in spidery long fingers. Shadowy arches in a wooded background. When I draw them I can almost smell the spicy aroma as the shadows close in around me and the cathedral pinpricks of light shine through the lattice of leaf and bough from above. I have only to raise my eyes and look out the window to have a visual reminder.

I didn't really think about how subconsciously I paint them as well, as all trees become an echo of the oaks that I see all around me; until I was reading Lisa Hunt's blog the other day in which she had some photos of her own beloved trees, and I was reminded how different they were from my own. And then later browsing James Browne's galleries as well that are graced by lovely sycamores. Even if our works weren't already easily distinguishable by disparate styles, the trees tell the story of the artist and leave their own indelible imprint. They sing a tale of an artist's memory and of the Home of the heart. And they dictate the patterns of the paintings.

Sausal Creek across from my house is a tangled ravine of blackberry brambles, live oaks, and ivy. It is a place of water and shifting shadows and light. At the base of the short trail that starts across the street from me, where you can cross the stream at a narrow point by teetering precariously on the rocks, the branches all arch above like a cathedral's flying buttresses and weave together to form a glorious ivy-draped amphitheater, more perfect than any painting could ever create.

The oaks near my parents house at Rancho Preserve are a different sort; solitary giants that spread their branches out into uncontested sunlight on the field of wildflowers and up in the signature dry, golden California hills.

An artist's love of natural beauty makes its mark in the artworks. The natural rhythms that I see around me suffuse my sensibilities, and those rhythms and patterns make their way onto my palette so that even when I'm not actually painting a live oak, in a way every painting is a live oak. The lines of my figures, the flow of my compositions are all influenced by the patterns of growth that surround me. These are the subconscious shadows of the live oaks that weave themselves through all of my art.

When I close my eyes, these are the trees in my dreams.


  1. What a beautiful entry Stephanie, and very timely for me, I'm now starting to understand the influence Nature / Trees has on me and my work, and how through connecting with them I can have direct access to the place I need to be to draw / paint. I'm starting to learn how my beloved trees outside where I live are shaping my work... so my jaw dropped when I read this! I love it that they're leaving their signature on people's work, beautiful! x

  2. Thank you Toni! I had this entry in mind for quite a while and only yesterday finally got around to writing it; but these thoughts had been going through my head for a couple months now too. It's interesting that you have also seen these patterns!

  3. I realized in high school that when I drew trees, I was drawing elm trees similar to the one I used to climb as a younger child. It was the essence of Tree to me, even though we also had maple trees, cherry trees, and pear trees which I would also climb.

  4. I love oak trees and being from Calif. originally I miss them! You honor them so nicely in this post and most certainly in your art!

  5. Thanks for giving me an excuse to view all of the fantasy art I love in a diferent light. Now, I can go through my favorite galleries and see how they paint and draw trees. I'll be checking James Browne first, as he is another favorite. Then, maybe JP Targete, and then...

  6. Steph, a wonderful entry by you. You could not have described the beauty of trees and how they inspire, how they shelter us and how they make for beautiful paintings any better.

    You know I love your trees.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this. Seeing your work always makes me think 'tree', even if there are no physical trees in the work. It's the way figures, fabric, and other elements curve in an uncontrolled, yet natural way.

    I've always admired the way you draw your trees - An Oak Shaped Hole in the Sky will always be one of my favorites works of yours. Even though I adore your color works, that ink drawing is powerful and special.

    I look forward to more of your trees, both physical and suggested.