The Magic Tree painting starts with a couple of lively sisters, 5 and 8, that love to climb trees and a mom that loves everything these girls teach her. When the family had their kitchen remodeled they all decided they wanted a painting. And of course the girls insisted it had to be a tree.
I am honored to be recruited for the project.
I visited their house, took pictures of their kitchen, noted the colors, absorbed preferences and listened to mom talk about trees, her kids and climbing. The assignment was a tree. I honestly didn’t know what it would look like when I left. But I had some ideas.
I sat down to sketch them out. A magic tree emerged, with a climber, to capture those magical moments and memories the family will always have of their climbers.
For reasons that can only be attributed to my manic painting behavior, I only had sketch paper available, all other boards were being used. When this sketch emerged on regular paper I knew it was what I wanted. I tried to paint over the sketch so that mom could get an idea of colors.
The colors are not what I intended. It is amazing how the colors just don’t match when painted on regular paper and you simply can’t work the color the same way to bring them out – the paper will disintegrate first.
Lesson learned: Always use watercolor paper when sketching an idea for a client.
Despite this, mom liked the composition, but not the colors. To clarify this key point before I started painting, I mocked up a color palette on watercolor paper and a detail of the painting to share with her.
I like the detail so much, I might just finish the painting soon, now that things are settling down.
With these three mock ups in place, mom was confident and gave me the go ahead to begin the 24″ x 18″ painting.
Mom let me post the progress on facebook and I kept her updated on progress. It took two weeks to finish, mostly because I was also trying to prep for my studio party. This painting would have taken about a week otherwise.
Here are the progress pictures:
As I posted these on social media, there were some interesting comments about leaving the climber as a negative space, including from my husband. This posed the question as to whether I should paint the climber or not. I had deliberately left the climber to the end to make sure I got a good balance of shading and color for it.
I asked mom what she thought, and she debated, but we agreed to paint it.
I wanted to paint it. I’m keenly aware that as a painting emerges there is a fear of f**king it up when it is coming along so nicely. There is a balance in that space and it takes a lot of thinking, reasoning and faith to not let the fear control the artistic decisions. I knew some subtle shading would add depth, and made the climber look like a child-like symbol instead of a ghost (in my mind). But it was a difficult space to be in at the end of the painting. Mostly, I had to believe in myself and my vision, not always easy. Mom really believed in my instincts and I’m grateful for that.
In the end, I’m pleased. More importantly, the family is pleased. When they came to pick up the painting, both girls were sure the climber was them. Exactly. Don’t many of us identify with the climber? The parents commented how much better it looked in person (it really does).
And the painting looks even more amazing in the kitchen.
And my first run of prints is gone, a couple sold before I finished the painting and the last two sold at my studio party. A wonderful success.
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