It seems that trees, ever-present in the background of everyday life, each have a unique stance, a unique expression, and a unique way to embrace the sky. I believe that a focus on trees can help to center us and bring us back into alignment with the flow, harmony and wisdom of life. It seems the trees are trying to teach us how to be strong and majestic, even with all of our flaws.
Each painting marries the abstract expression with the tree’s representational framework, and is sensitive to the varied environments having to do with season, weather, and time of day. Thus, this exhibit celebrates the grace with which the bough structures of trees embrace the sky, quietly plead for sunshine, sing with the wind, and keep the sky from falling.
I always think it’s interesting to see the images that inspired the art… so now, I’m sharing some of the reference images alongside the paintings, and bit about what inspired me…
Grasping at Sunshine
40 x 60 Acrylic on Canvas 2013
This painting is based on a photograph I had taken in Uptown, Waterloo during an event called ‘Once Around the Block’. Usually when I’m taking pictures, it’s when I’m on a Sunday drive, so this was a special day for me to walk with other photographers and get to photograph subjects from more interesting vantage points. When I took this photograph, I was doubtful of whether shooting into the sun would ruin the chances of the picture being usable.
Happily, it was!
To me, this piece is simply about a tree summoning the sun, so as to finally shake off the winter doldrums, and to commence with the growing of leaves!
40 x 30 Acrylic on Canvas 2014
This painting is based on a photograph of a tree that I’ve had in my tree reference collection for many years, and finally I decided to turn it into a painting. I believe that this tree lives somewhere in the Southern US, but there’s no real way to know the exact location.
To me, this work communicates the contrast of the welcome and wonderful shade from a giant oak tree on a blazing hot day to the overwhelming quiet heaviness from the thick humidity on a Southern sunny day. As you may see in the reference photo, a clump of trees became a shack. Maybe there really was a shack hidden behind the trees, but it felt better to me to make it certain. The tree acts as if it were an umbrella from the heat in the form of an Oak tree….UmbrOaken Silence!
About to Sprout
20 x 20 Acrylic on Canvas 2014
This painting is based on a photograph I taken at my favorite Taco Bell on Weber St. in Waterloo. I’ve enjoyed many a taco in the presence of the shrub, and was always appreciative of its perfectly rounded structure. Also, this shrub, and its surrounding flowerbed, was always one of my favourite places to sit and notice the beauty of the passing seasons.
On this day, I was particularly enjoying the form, as I could see the underlying branch structure since the leaves had not yet sprouted. I love the radiating pattern suggested by the plant. This painting, ‘About to Sprout’, will always remind me of the time in early spring when the sun is shining stronger, but the plants still aren’t so sure about bringing their leaves out into the open just yet.
Dusky Yielding FilaTree
20 x 24 Acrylic on Canvas 2016
At this point, I was exploring the idea of doing a series of tree paintings from local trees, and this is one of the first of the newly created tree pieces. This tree lives somewhere in the Woolwich Township area, I couldn’t say exactly where, as this was taken on one of our many Sunday drives. This tree is fully dressed in leaves, but still allowed some openings to see through the canopy – kind of like a filigree.
I felt like this tree had something to say. Something like, “I’m exactly where I should be, and you can count on me to be here to keep an eye on things.” Very solid and steadfast, despite the see-through bits.
Raging Sky Po-e-Tree
24 x 48 Acrylic on Canvas 2017
Like the previous ‘Dusky Yielding FilaTree’, this tree also seemed to have something to say. It felt to me like the tree was dancing and singing just for the sky, extolling the virtues of grounded-ness to the ever-fleeting passing clouds. And the clouds responded by threatening rain. And rain is all that the tree really wanted.
30 x 48 Acrylic on Canvas 2017
The photo for these trees was taken on the grounds of Homer Watson House and Gallery on one April late afternoon just as the sun was starting to take a dive towards the horizon. It felt like a great opportunity to shoot more tree photographs directly at the sun, so I took quite a few pictures, many of which have been transformed, as least in part, into tree paintings for this series.
For this piece, the trees are blocking the sun, kindly shielding me from the very bright light. I thought it was very gallant and kind of them to do that for me. But still, the sun’s presence manages to sneak around the edges of the tree, just to make sure I don’t forget about it’s brilliance.
The Joyful TreeLease
16 x 20 Acrylic on Canvas 2017
This photo was taken on the grounds of Homer Watson House and Gallery, and is one of several close-ups of trees in this collection. The leaves are new and just learning how to capture that ever-moving target of a sun. This day was a good day of sunning, and the leaves are ever joyful at their new venture!
Sun Catcher Training Day
24 x 24 Acrylic on Canvas 2017
This photo was taken on the grounds of Homer Watson House and Gallery, and is one of several close-ups of trees in this collection. The leaves are new and just learning how to capture the light of the sun. There is still much for the young leaves to learn, and they are being guided by the whispers from the branches.
Pre-Flight Pavilion Party
30 x 30 Acrylic on Canvas 2017
This photo was taken on the grounds of Homer Watson House and Gallery, and is one of several close-ups of trees in this collection. The leaves are at the end of their cycle, and finally, it’s time to let go. It’s not sad, as the leaves have always been jealous of the birds and really want to fly. So they get really happy about the matter in the weeks ahead, donning the fanciest colors they can manage.
Gracious Golden Passage Gala
36 x 36 Acrylic on Canvas 2017
This photo is from a drive somewhere in the Woolwich Township area. Cropping in the picture resulted in a scene that reads more like a river flowing behind the tree than simply an empty field. It seemed to me that whether it was to be a river or a field, there was this idea of it being a passageway, and the tree simply was there to enjoy the parade of whatever or whoever happened to pass along the way. On this day, the day is drawing closer to sunset, and there is a great anticipation and celebration of something special that is about to glide by. What a happy time!
Hidden Beyond the Green
30 x 30 Acrylic on Canvas 2017
This painting is based on a photograph I took at the Hidden Valley in Kitchener in advance of entering the Hidden Valley juried show at Homer Watson House and Gallery. I was fortunate to have a friend show me around the trails and the wonderful spaces in this hidden gem found in the midst of the trappings of paved city life. Thanks, nik! This day was the peak of summer, and very hot, humid, and especially distressing to me – BUGGY! Nevertheless, I persevered, and managed to hike to some wonderful spaces with trees, ponds, puddles, and pathways. It was a magical place, despite being pelted by the bugs.
This photo of a pond behind some trees stirred my imagination and made me wonder what was lying beyond the trees in the distance.
Spirit Tree Dawning
20 x 30 Acrylic on Canvas 2017
The basis for this painting comes from a photo of a tree taken on another drive somewhere in or near the Woolwich Township area. I could really see the personality in this tree, and was inspired to create a drawing based directly on the photograph. The drawing is very stylized, and I was curious to see what might happen if I were to subject the drawing to various photo filters. I got a result which had very little to do with the drawing, but it had an appeal that I couldn’t ignore, so I decided to use the filtered image as the starting point of my tree painting. So, much of the initial personality of the tree is now wiped out….but… a different personality has arisen, and almost seems like it’s become an evergreen tree of sorts. I really liked the coolness that I felt from the tree, and I felt that this tree existed specifically to greet each new day with a quiet calmness in advance of the day’s hectic pace.
TreeCentric Summer Glow
30 x 40 Acrylic on Canvas 2017
This is another photo taken from my excursion to Hidden Valley. I loved the sense of space in this photo. It seemed to me that it was a spiritual spot, and that the puddle was the alter-piece. But as I painted, what became perhaps more important to me was the notion of the clearing beyond the trees. So it made me think that spirit in a covered solitude was amazing, but there’s also great spirit in the openness and sunshine.
I Am Treemendous
24 x 48 Acrylic on Canvas 2017
The photo for this painting came about when I was somewhere in or near the Woolwich Township area. Here’s another tree with oodles of personality, and I was determined to try and capture some of it with my painting. Since this is about the tree only, I edited out all of the other extraneous elements…. Leaving only a strip of land, and sky, and the portrait of a great tree. This is a solitary tree, yet he’s very active, engaging his surroundings. He’s filling up the immense surrounding space with his boisterous charm, and won’t allow any entity in his space to feel lonely or sad.
Joyful Pines, Whispering Lines
20 x 16 Acrylic on Canvas 2017
This is another photo from around Woolwich Township area, and also an image that I subjected to a photo filter. This resulted line of pine trees seemed to be dancing with the sky, and who can resist such a beautiful waltz?
11 x 11 Acrylic on Panel 2017
This small tree sprang from pure imagination, and has such a happy presence.
48 x 36 Acrylic on Canvas 2017
The photo used for this painting was taken from around the Woolwich Township area. I loved the sense of solitude and mystery in the photo, and was excited by the challenge to transform the snow-scene into a very joyful piece. I am so pleased that it feels tremendously joyful to me, and it also retains much the initial quietude that initially struck me.
18 x 24 Acrylic on Canvas 2017
This tree is located on the property of the Home Hardware headquarters in St. Jacobs. It’s a lone tree, but seems to have perfect form, pretty as a picture.
I wanted the tree to feel like it was being all dressed up in it’s finest Sunday-go-to-meeting frock, showing off it’s innocence and perfection.
Later Additions to “TreeCentricity”
The Seasonal IndusTree
30 x 40 Acrylic on Canvas 1018
Usually when I’m taking pictures, it’s when I’m on a Sunday drive, and this photo is no exception. I was immediately struck by the way this tree reaches to the left.
The torrential rain has hit a lull, and a scrap of sunshine is working its way through the storm clouds. The tree is quick to summon the sun and is already certain that its taken in enough water.
Soon, the industry of growing leaves will be taking place, the industry of trees… IndusTree!!
Joe’s Gnarly Trunk Show
10 x 20 Acrylic on Canvas 2018
This painting is based on a photograph that my father took, over 30 years ago. My Dad (Joe) was an avid amateur photographer, and enjoyed spending much time taking photos of nature, and obsessing with his camera equipment and lenses. This particular photo has been in my image files for years, and I’m so glad to finally be paying tribute to my Dad’s ‘eye’ and to this wonderfully gnarly tree truck that lives somewhere in my hometown neighborhood. I wanted to have ‘gnarly’ in the title because it fits so well, and my Dad liked to use the word ‘gnarly’.
Autumnal Yellow Treet
16 x 16 Acrylic on Canvas 2018
A brilliant Yellow tree!
I am very grateful that I was able to exhibit my “TreeCentricity” collection at Homer Watson House & Gallery in Kitchener, Ontario in early 2018. It was later exhibited as “Expressions of TreeQuility” at Cambridge Centre for the Arts!, such a beautiful space!
Why dedicate a year to painting trees?
The reasons to focus on trees are innumerable, from environmental issues to the irrepressible Groot; trees seem to be taking the forefront of my consciousness, and they may not let up on me anytime soon.
Since my work is decidedly abstracted, depicting the physical reality of trees is always a creative challenge. What kind of form language can I invent for trees? How much can I abstract a tree and still have it read as’ ‘tree’? What are the essential aspects of trees? What is the most important thing that a representation of a tree has to say? These questions are endlessly fascinating to me, and still, I believe there is much more to do and explore.
The ubiquitous nature of trees propels me even further. They are always just there, buffering the sky from the ground; softening the harshness of urban landscapes. And if you’re not paying attention to them, you could miss out on so much poetry about living, personality, and stability. And even if you’re not paying attention, the trees are there, giving you clues about the world you’re in. They’ll tell you what season you’re in, or about the stillness of the air. Every year, I marvel at their autumn display of yellows, oranges, and reds; their winter displays of branching structures with collections of glorious frozen water crystals, their spring displays of fresh yellow-green renewal, and their summer displays of lush, sheltering canopy. I’m especially captivated by their dances with the wind. But all it takes is to see, to notice, and appreciate; and then, you’re opened to a world where trees become individuals with personalities and attitude, just waiting to have their story told. I believe part of their purpose is to inspire us with their quiet strength and sense of community.
As someone who strives to capture positivity with paint, I believe focusing on trees can help to center us and bring us back into alignment with the flow, harmony and wisdom of life. I imagine that trees are trying to teach us how to be strong and majestic, even with all of our flaws. Through my Sunday drives through rural regions, I commune with the trees, and capture images of the trees whose voices seem to be loudest, and whose accompanying landscape and sky are the best counterpart to enhance the tree’s expression. I imagine the trees are communicating with the sky and the heavens, and translating those messages to those of us scurrying along the ground.