Our Tree

I bought a frame at Goodwill. I needed a break from gallery-wrapped canvas, which is so popular these days because the finished work, with paint wrapping around the edges, does not need a costly frame, and since I favor large canvases, framing costs can be more than the painting is worth.

When I buy frames, I tend toward plain ones that do not detract or overly engranden the work inside them. Like my rule for jewelry: if it does not make the wearer look better, take it off. But this frame was a statement. Whatever I put into it better be super fancy, or it would not match. So I set out to paint fancy.

I chose for my subject probably the most well-known and popular tree in all of Portland: that one Japanese maple in the Portland Japanese Garden. I had taken a knock-out photograph of the tree in Autumn back in 2000, and since then have seen many other photographs of the same tree. It really has everything: autumn color, wriggly branches, beautiful setting. I had once painted it in acrylics on a tote bag, but it really deserved a real oil-on-canvas interpretation.

 That Japanese Maple as I photographed it in 2000.

That Japanese Maple as I photographed it in 2000.

I originally decided to put my palette knife aside and use my brushes on this one. Maybe I just didn’t want to work as hard as I would have had to work to complete the entire thing with a palette knife. But my first and second tries at creating an interesting picture with brushes were too prissy, super boring. Not fancy. And not interesting. So out came my palette knife and out went my editor’s brain. I quit worrying about my design approach being too obvious, or that I might ruin the whole thing with a careless swat. And this is the result. Quite fancy. I think I’ll call it Our Tree, because so many people in Portland know it and love it.

 Our Tree. Oil on canvas, 36" x 24" 

Our Tree. Oil on canvas, 36" x 24"