Green Giant

It’s good to see this old sugar maple in our front yard wearing a mantle of greenery again. Moss covered and with new leaves unfolding, it’s tangled mass of old limbs drew me in. After an hour or so, the black flies drove me away.

Tips and Techniques– I started this as an ink drawing and worked until it was quite detailed. I could have, and maybe should have, left it there, with just a light wash of bright green for the leaves. I had that “fork in the road” feeling—not sure whether to add more color or let it be. Sometimes I walk away at that point, coming back later with greater clarity of direction. Sometimes I leap, follow a hunch, take the risk, and hope for the best. What do you do when you reach that fork in the road with a painting?

38 Comments on “Green Giant

  1. I personally like that you added color….love the spring green and moss color, so rich and only so brilliant in the spring time. The tree it’s self have great form and personality.

  2. Sometimes, I walk away at the fork in the road… but not always. I find that if I press on when I have doubts….I wind up with an overworked piece. I have plenty of those! Maybe, I can use parts of those paintings for a future collage.
    Painting time is never wasted even if the particular painting fails. I always learn something.
    On a personal note…..I’d like to see some added color on your Green Giant.

  3. I think it’s just right. As a photographer I have the luxury of trying both forks, either with a “save as” or by making new layer in Photoshop. Even then, it’s often better for me to take break — an hour or day or week or month — to let both me and the image breathe.

  4. I almost always scan at the b&w stage if I feel unsure of how I am going to colour – I have saved myself much grief with illustrations by having a back-up to re-do. And sometimes it is just fun to do the exact same thing in wildly different ways, for the fun of it. 🙂

    • But if you scan, can you print again on watercolor paper? I was impatient yesterday and didn’t scan at the drawing stage, but that would have been a good idea.

      • I do put watercolour paper through my printer… I discovered this fix in a panic for an illustration one time. I had inadvertently used water-soluble ink for the underdrawing but had luckily scanned at b&w. That time, I did a second, very pale print on wc paper and did the painting part, then scanned and combined them – voila! Another time I printed a pale version of my drawing, re-inked it in india ink and then painted – I was unsure of how I would colour it, so gave myself a back-up. My printer ink just disappears into the wash. It really is amazing what you can do when you are freaking out! 😂

  5. Nothing like a large, old tree – makes you pause and think, appreciate its beauty – and so lovely to draw!

  6. What is so appealing about this work is how the unworked parts of the piece seem to frame your intent. The tree pops from both the color and the white portions of the page. I can really see the depth and majesty of the tree in the way you worked the light to darker shading of greens. As far as the fork is concerned, I am still too busy learining the basics of the prongs like shading, proportion and regular practice!! I am looking forward to these flexible and intuitive decisions.

    • Thanks, and well said. I didn’t want to loose the sketch to the painting. Glad you’re working on the basics. You’ll know when you get to the fork. Expect a few turns you wish you hadn’t made…its part of the learning (the frustrating part.)

  7. If the drawing is too precious to me I leave it alone. If not I dive in and experiment.

  8. Sometimes I just can’t leave a painting alone and “fiddle”! I have find it often helps if I take a photograph of it if I ‘m at the undecided stage and look at it from a different prospective. I can very often see then if it is l”balanced” and what I think is needed to move on with the picture.

  9. I’ll often walk away leaving it to sit sometimes for days. But as one reader mentioned I have overworked a piece. I wish I could be more spontaneous and throw it down on paper and be happy. Over thinking for me means overworking. I like this. Thanx for sharing your thoughts

  10. Take photos of the pen and ink sketch, that I could print out later if needed, and then paint. Have heard of others painting their photocopy.

  11. This is really lovely just as it is. I always find tree trunks and branches are so full of character, you could always do another version focusing on the green.

  12. Love this-really captures the spring color! If I have time, I leap. Otherwise, I wait and make a more thoughtful decision later, which usually ends up being to leave it alone. Lol

  13. I’m fascinated by the varying shades of colour that are in your tree, these really bring it to life.. it’s not just any tree but a very special tree. It’s splendid Jean!

    • There really is a lot of pink in this tree and it doesn’t look right painted without it. It’s also exceptional because so many of the branches are covered in moss, so they are green rather than gray. Thanks for your positive response!

  14. Follow Frost’s self-directive to take the “road less traveled by…”


  15. A similar, but not identical phenomenon happens when I’m processing photos. After a while I get tired, and I notice I’m less inspired. That’s when it’s time to stop, for a few minutes or more. Complicated scenes like this can be so hard to work with. I was trying to photograph trees in the sun the last few days – way too much visual information! But by keeping some white in the background, carefully composing the branches and trunk, and keeping the color palette unified, you managed to conquer that problem. 🙂

  16. Isn’t that always the way. Good weather and we can’t even enjoy it. What a fabulous tree. Great for climbing.

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