Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tangled Web: studio oil painting

Here's number two in my "year of the tree" series.

This group of white gums sits on a farm a few kilometres from home.

While I was initially taken in by the view to the Stirling Range, I was also interested in the patterns created by the twisting trunks and tangled branches and the umbrella-shaped leaf canopies that are typical of many large eucalypts.

As with my last painting, I wanted to capture the strong feeling of sunlight, not only as it played directly across the trunk, branches and leaves of the central tree, but also as it reflected onto the shaded side of the trunk and the undersides of the branches. In fact the shaded branches in the upper canopy have a younger, reddish bark that positively glows with the warmth and strength of that reflected light.

Although they run cattle on this property, I wanted something understated to help balance the image so I added three sheep to the left side. The fence post is also the result of some artistic licence.
white gums near stiling range. oil painting by andy dolphin.
Tangled Web
60x40cm oil on board.  
© Andy Dolphin

As before, that shadow colour on the main trunk looked like mud until the bright highlight was placed alongside it. It's quite unnerving to have it sitting there looking "wrong" but I'm sure I'll learn to trust it after painting a few more of these trees.

The trick with something like that is to trust the tone. You need to get that right or it will never work.

Start with what you consider to be the true "local" colour of the bark – a pale ochre in this case – then darken and cool it to the correct tone. Then you will need to add some reflected light into the mix for some parts of the tree. That reflected-light colour is dictated by the area surrounding the tree.

It can seem like a bit of a battle mixing a colour that is both warm and cool, but this approach should get you in the ballpark. Add variety to the bark with some slightly warmer and slightly cooler colours, and it will start to take form.