Fresh eyes, marks and meanings

May 4, 2016

It feels like grace when a group of paintings becomes a series. I don’t have to start from scratch with each canvas –  the theme is decided, there is fresh inspiration, and one painting leads to the next.

Spirit of Trees is a new series, started last winter during illness, continuing now into spring with new energy and wellness. It has a particular significance to me, giving me a way to express my connection with nature- my feeling of being held/protected by it and at its mercy as well. A healthy kind of humility, I would think.

With the dog, I walk the same paths a lot here locally. Sometimes I get bored with the familiar scenery, but lately I’ve been trying to look at things with fresh eyes. Looking at trees with new affection has increased my awareness of their beautiful forms, alone and in relationship. There was a recent book here (in NL) by a forest ranger who feels keenly the emotions of trees. His lifelong association with trees has convinced him that they do form relationships, communicate with, and protect each other. I also sense different personalities in trees and enjoy communing with them.

The next painting in the series is a small study, completed in one sitting.

spirit of trees 001

new branches

It was done on top of an old painting- once again the background determines the feel of the new image. I’ve left parts of the original painting showing through.

I like this one, but wanted to take the subject further. I had a clear idea that I wanted to do it in the style of David Hockney, feeling the need for sharp colour delineation and a more decorative approach.

Now David Hockney is a whole other topic. I still get blissed out when I remember stumbling by accident into his ‘The Big Picture’ exhibition in Cologne while I was there for another show. I wrote about it here. Excerpt below:

The show was a total immersion experience in the art and life of this artist of stature. I’ve always liked Hockney’s work, but these huge composite canvasses of as many as 18 paintings making up one whole wall of landscape were just awe inspiring. It was a privilege just to see this work… It was all good, all well drawn, all honest, all meaningful, relevant. And yet also decorative, unique and humorous.

I came away from that show wanting to paint in the same spirit as Hockney,( not necessarily with the same technique). At any rate, I’ve noticed that when I get gob-smacked by some inspirational visual art and am longing to have some of the same kind of qualities in my work,it rarely works to try to appropriate part of another artist’s ‘language’. For me that dead-ends after awhile because you are lifting elements out of context, and are missing the whole energy base/story/context which led to them in the first place. They grew out of someone else’s life and a living creative process intimately bound with that person’s story. So copying someone else’s line, gesture, colours-unless they connect with something vital in your own work, will lead only to empty gestures and superficial effects.

I’ve found that if I trust and let go of wanting my work to look a certain way, years later, some influence will emerge naturally in my painting that recalls another artist, but finally has been translated into my own marks and meanings.

spirit of trees 006

tree inspiration

This painting was started very much with Hockney’s series of landscape/ tree paintings in mind, but is not a slavish copy. Temporarily borrowing another artist’s way of seeing or handling subject matter opens new doors of perception for me. There were a series of ahas about how to handle layers of foreground and background, and how to make essentially brown and green trees light up! Google ‘The big picture’ and look at some of the work.

David Hockney, landscape around Yorkshire

What a vitality, and how directly and with what a sure hand they are painted!  Can’t wait to get back to work, cheers!



4 Responses to “Fresh eyes, marks and meanings”

  1. I love New Branches, both the tactile nature of the tree and the fascinating background. What a great effect you produce by having parts of the previous painting showing through. Lovely!

  2. thanks Michael, this way of working has been evolving for the past few years, and it frees me up a lot. A veteran Dutch artist said that the painting you see is only the top layer of many different stories evolving through time.

  3. Simply beautiful! It just makes my day to see the glory, the joy in your work

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