Paint Schoodic

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Out on a limb

Rye Fields, 1878, Ivan Shishkin
Yesterday, a reader wrote in response to my Winslow Homer post, “I find rocks difficult, too, and trees. Trees are my nemesis.” Made me smile because I was drawing a combination of rocks and trees at the time.

I will soon show you a cute parlor trick that will simplify drawing trees. But until then, approach them the same way you do the human body, as a sinuous torso with expressive, outstretched limbs.

After the Rain: Etude of the Forest, 1881, Ivan Shishkin
Although my trick will simplify getting the overall shapes right, there is no substitute for careful observation. The Russian Peredvizhniki painter Ivan Shishkin, like many of his fellow-countrymen, specialized in trees, and he seemed to draw them as frequently as paint them. That meticulous attention to drawing studies is something he shared with America’s great artist of trees, Andrew Wyeth.

Drawing of oaks by Ivan Shishkin, 1857
My goal in this sketch was not to perfectly realize a real-world tree, but to devise a pattern of branches for a painting of a tree fallen across a river that has created a logjam. This has been the most difficult sketch to date, since I did two radically different layouts for it and have waffled between them.

My sketch of a tree fallen across a river. The root ball needs to be bigger, but I will fix that in the painting.
 I’ve done eight sketches since the beginning of January, of which six are usable. I have two others completed earlier. On Monday, I will paint again for the first time since my surgery. I can’t wait.


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