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Step-by-Step Painting Development: "Drought" by Sharron Boxenbaum

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Finding the Idea
Step-by-step tree painting development
Photo © Sharron Boxenbaum

Living in the center of the United States, surrounded by flat land and more flat land, I have come to terms with painting what I know. There are no majestic mountain ranges, no rollicking oceans, no romantic cliffs. Instead, there are a plethora of forest preserves (tree museums if you will) where I live. When I want to get out in nature, that’s where I head. Nature is the thing that inspires me. Walking in the woods brings me new thoughts and ideas. There’s always unique lighting setting the stage, or foliage that has changed color since my last visit, limbs that grow impossibly crooked and massive trees that are taken down by one unfortunate lightning strike. It’s all seems incredibly durable yet at the same time surprisingly fragile.

Painting outdoors is a lot of fun, but often I lack the motivation or time to do it as often as I’d like. As a compromise, I will take a 20-60 minute hike and take photos with my iPhone. I’ll email myself the best shots and save them in a folder and then send them electronically to my local drug store for printing. Enlarge them to 4” x 6”. This will often result in a poor quality photo because the pixels break up, but that’s fine because a lesser quality photo means there is more for me to work out as the creator.

For the painting “Drought”, I wanted to convey the stress the drought has caused the vegetation in the Midwest. I found the deceased tree trunk both tragic and beautiful. By the girth of the trunk, it was a pretty old tree and the skin of the trunk had an almost dinosaur-like appearance to me. A giant felled by nature’s design.Painting is about making hundreds of decisions, which is part of the challenge and part of the fun. There are many ways to start a painting and I have used many methods - none are wrong. For instance; you can start by drawing your composition; or by painting in large shapes; or by applying a wash and either drawing on top with a brush or subtracting the paint using a brush and paint thinner to outline a scene – all work, just depending on your mood or the best approach for the subject.

For this particular painting, I used a combination of Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson to draw out the composition using a Bright No. 10 brush. I really like brights (flat brushes with a straight edge across) because they are so versatile. They are good for creating lines, shapes and covering a lot of space on the canvas. This brush was also used to shape the random leaf patterns in the upper right corner by twisting the brush back and forth between my fingers. I like to start every painting with larger brushes and only move to smaller sized brushes toward the very end.

Next step: Draining the Color...

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