Monday, January 4, 2010

Branch control

Here is a painting I have showed you before, but I wanted to show something of mine that had snow, and trees in it. There is something about that photo, it looks better at some angles on my screen than others, you may have to scrunch down or sit up a little more for it to look its best. I haven't any idea why.

I wanted snow in the picture because I want to remind you that there are several spaces left in each of the snowcamp workshops. I had one filled, so I scheduled a second, and then several people from the first filled workshop moved to the second. So there are a couple of slots open in each. I am sure you remember the post where I described the inn, and you can see that here.

I am continually restrained by what I can readily teach in medium of the blog, I am not complaining, its amazing what can be done. The reach of this medium is extraordinary. However there are a lot of things that it doesn't do as well, either because I have to show something in real time, with nature next to it, or I have to tailor what I say to an individuals need. I can't for instance, teach drawing very well on the net. I can teach the ideas of drawing, but I can't sit next to a student and say, you have got the side of that house too blue and the line of that roof looks off to me. Some things must be taught one on one, I think. There are things that I can show you in the field that I am unable to type into my laptop and post. I know its inconvenient to leave home sometimes and there is some expense, but I can save you years of screwing around, try me. Heres the sign up page.

I am going to begiin writing about painting trees, I am writing this organically, that is, rather than writing it all, shuffling it into the best order and then publishing it, I am writing and publishing a piece each day. I hope it comes out in an orderly fashion, but my guess is it won't, so bear with me. Some day this will be a book and then I can go back through it and in hind sight see better how it should have been presented.

The picture above is about evenly divided between snow and trees. Most landscape paintings (except in some desert places, or urban scenes) are tree paintings. There must be about a dozen or more different trees in that painting going from left to right. Every single one is different. Some are pines, some are birches, some lean one way, and some another. They have different volumes and are different colors.

But they all are observed, and they all are simplified. There is usually way to much shrubbery and twig haze out there. If I put every stick and branch in I am going to to get a cluttered and obsessive look. The old saying you can't see the forest for the trees is a good warning for the landscapist. You want to characterize the interesting and the essential and "prune" out the repetitive and the unnecessary.

Here is a Hibbard , look how few branches there are on those trees, just enough to carry the story, if he had put in none, it wouldn't have been believable, but he has stripped them way back. If you go look at most of Carlsons work here and here you will see the same thing. Can we call it branch control? I was with a friend once who was painting a big many branched tree that stood on its own at the edge of a field. He was having a hard time with it and lamented that it looked like a goddamned octopus.

So lesson one of the tree series is this, branch control. You have to simplify trees (and almost everything else ) to paint them well. In order to do this, it is good to have some idea of their structure and how they are built. I will begin a series of posts on that tomorrow.


bobm said...

Stape great post and great paintings Branch control in the winter is almost a necessity due to time constrains,I would go nuts painting them all. looking forward to the rest of the series.

barbara b. land of boz said...

Thank you Stapleton for the words of wisdom. I love looking at the different trees in winter. I live on 80 acres of tall grass prairie and cross timber. It is not boring at all. They each tell their own story. I don't have to go far to find one with interest. Have bought and read Carlsons book and thanks for the heads up on this one.
I had to play catch-up again.(I'm ready to be home for awhile) So wanted to tell you the Elvgren pin-ups are beautifully done. I can remember seeing them in the auto repair garages.
barbara b. "land of boz"

Linda Crank said...

Your painting is beautiful!

Anonymous said...

great topic, as usual. Looking forward to the rest. I'd do the snow camp, but my feet get too cold! (Literally) Judy W

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am a painting chainsaw.

Stapleton Kearns said...

When I was a a kid they were in the barber shop too. Along with Argosy and the true crime magazines.All of that illustration was so good. Derided as pulp then, I miss it now that it is gone and replaced with,...

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

There is no reason to have cold feet, that is an equipment failure. Janet Jackson gets cold from wardrobe malfunctions, but painters get cold because of inadequate boots. Cabelas, Trans-Alaskas!

willek said...

I am always intrigued when, as you have done in the first picture, artists do extraordinary things with ordinary, mundane scenes.I have passed up scenes like these all the time looking for something "special"

Is the view for that Hibbard location still accessable?

billspaintingmn said...

I'm all ears. Thanks Stape.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your thoughts on simplification. That continues to be my mantra and a challenge. Also loved reading the Carlson link. Looking forward to "the rest of the story." said...

It all comes back to simplification and artistic decisions, doesn't it?
Always good to get a good reminder and I am looking at trees again with open eyes.

Don't be afraid of Snow Camp, Judy. I just bought Sorrel Glacier Boots for women, rated to -100 F. No kidding. They were a little lighter than Cabela's. Yes they weight but thankfully I won't be climbing glaciers. Just one pair of warm socks and room to wiggle your toes and you should be alright.

Dot Courson said...

Stape- look forward to the upcoming info. But... could you please leave off the profanity? The g.d. word is offensive and I love reading your blog and want to recommend it to folks. But I don't curse (well not that much- at least not publicly and never *that* word!) and am very uncomfortable recommending it because of what I consider REally profane profanity. I posted a link to your blog today before I finished reading it completely -and after returning to your blog to finish reading, I felt I should remove the link due to that one word that was in there... Thanks.

Gregory Becker said...

Ask me I think you have a book already.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am sorry if my use of that word has given offense. What I think is this. I do not use the four letter words. because I think they ARE inappropriate. So I do have restrictions, however I do not have a problem with "Goddamn". I remember being taught that "hell" was a swear word too, Once that might have been the case, and I feel it is no longer.Some of this may be a regional variation in acceptability.

Either way I use it infrequently and as an accent to underline what I am saying, or in this case, because I was quoting what some one had actually said. Had I changed what he said to eliminate the word it would have disguised his real frustration and blunted what I intended to say. William F Buckley (one of my heroes) wrote and published a book entitled "Cancel your own damn subscription". He was a good Catholic and a fine writer.
There are a few readers who have objected to both the Heinrich Kley posts and the Gil Elvgren brought a private e-mail.
I hope you will continue to link to those posts that I write which don't contain things with which you are uncomfortable.

Unknown said...

Great post, looking forward to what you have to say. I always thought trees were the closest thing to painting a figure. Happy new year.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Willek: The Hibbard site is on private property and I don't know if it is still paintable. It is pretty overgrown back in there now.I was actually near it about 2 weeks ago.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

There are people who are comfortable in winter and others who are not. They can stay home and lose their tan.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. I think I need A LOT more.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Nice to hear from you. Hope that you are getting some sleep and you're all well........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

I hope I say something worth that .

Love2paint said...

Stape, I think this post is right on time for me. I am about to embark on another addition to my landscape series with oak trees. As I move on from each painting, I reduce the amount of branches. I look back on my first orange grove tree series from several years ago and although the paintings are nice, I can see I went haywire back then. I just looked at Emile Gruppe`s paintings on Facebook and they are so stunning, you can tell he adds his branch work at the end so he doesn't go overboard. His tree trunks are placed in early of course, then the leaves in forms, not leaf by leaf, then fourishes of dark branch strokes. Love his style! Oh, and yours too! I also learned the hard way that it is very important not to put all your trees at the same height when in rows, variation is key here.