Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Creekside, 9 x 12 in.

A small study of this scene is an early part of my tree studies that I've been working on since late July. I was able to play up the transitions of blue water to yellow-orange fields to purple hills in this version. The lazy, gentle quality of this group of trees by the creek caught my eye right away this summer, and a successful study ensured a fun couple of hours working it up as a larger painting.

-julie davis

Monday, August 29, 2011

Trees, Number 16

Trees Number 16, 6 x 8 in.

This post is based on my Idaho/Wyoming trip. These cottonwoods stand in the valley of Jackson Hole, and this particular group of trees had a lovely buck and pole wooden fence that ran in front of them. I liked the way the trees framed the field in the background--almost like a window.

-julie davis

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Texas Palms Study

Texas Palms, study, 8 x 6 in.

One of my friends here in Austin has been after me for a while (could be something over a year) to do a little something with a palm tree in it--she has a place at the coast here in Texas. I keep telling her Austin isn't exactly rife with palms. I finally relented and said I'd do one in my tree study series if she'd get me a photo or two, so she sent some photos my way of some palms near her place at the beach. Well, here you go, friend. This one is for you. :)

-julie davis

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Number 14

Study 14, 6 x 8 in.


So this one is less of a tree study than some of the others, but the trees were still my main focus. I painted this study somewhere in the midst of all the others, and since I spent a good bit of yesterday and today dedicated to my kids and the "business" of art, it got the nod for today's post.

It's a scene I painted while in Idaho on one of our quick studies--I left out the hay this time, and changed the fence line--I'm planing to do a larger version (with the hay), but I'm trying out a few things first.

-julie davis

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Copying the Masters

Tree sketch

In the midst of my own tree studies, I'm taking an online course with Deborah Paris called "Drawing and Painting Trees." Perfect for me, right? She has us doing all sorts of studies/sketches of trees, and this week one thing we've studied is the taper of a tree.

Deborah recommends reading The Elements of Drawing, by John Ruskin, an influential late 19th-century artist. She suggests copying his and other's sketches as a way to learn. It's a time-honored technique, but I can't say I'd ever done it! And it's very different copying another's work--following rather than leading, if you will, but I learned some very valuable lessons. First, slow down. Be more thoughtful about each line. Study what you're drawing. Look twice, mark once. All of these apply to painting, and all are things we tend to gloss over in the bliss of spreading paint.

A big thank you to Karla Uphoff, for making my blog her "Blog Find of the Week" on her blog. My tree studies are what drew her. Thank you!

-julie davis

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tree Study 13- Copying the Masters

Tree Study 13, 8 x 6 in.

Several people have asked about whether the "active" side of the tree is always the lit side of the tree. It makes sense to assume that it would generally be the case, as light draws the eye. However, assume the entire tree is in shadow/silhouetted. One side could nevertheless be more "active" than the other. One side should have more emphasis, the other would be subordinate. Here, I have a tree that is obviously lit from one side, but I intentionally made the shadow side the active side, just as an example.

Even after doing all these studies, it's still difficult for me to restrain myself from "decorating" the entire outline of the tree with activity. One strives for balance, and this exercise is about interest. The balance would come in from the rest of the composition, as these are studies, and not meant to stand alone.

-julie davis

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tree Study 12

Tree Study 12, 6 x 8 in.

I'm playing (studiously, of course) :) with tree groupings. Again, a reference from my trip to cooler country and taller trees.

-julie davis

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer Graze

Summer Graze, 6 x 8 in.
The cottonwood trees in Idaho and Wyoming are, from my West Texas mesquite-trees-the-size-of-bushes perspective, majestic. (I grew up in several West Texas towns, so this is said with love and passion for that land, though the trees are notably not tall). The lovely thing about the river valley area around Jackson, WY and nearby Victor, ID, is that everywhere one turns, there are beautiful trees, many, many of them cottonwoods so tall they dwarf buildings and especially cattle.

This painting was really an attempt to study pushing the trees off the top of the panel, and to create a less dominant sky. It was such a pleasing little painting to make.

-julie davis

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tree Study 10-A good study coming to grief

Tree Study 10, 6 x 8 in.

The next in line.....I don't feel my best effort came through in it. Too spotty--a pitfall with trees. A favorite quote of Scott Christensen's comes from John Carlson, and (sadly) relates directly to this study....but this is about learning for me, which is why I'm posting this.

Carlson says, "The big form is difficult to preserve because by he time we have modeled the smaller forms upon the big and added the necessary highlights and shadows, the chances are that we have overdone these so that our big form is cut up and spotty. These highlights and shadows belong there, but we may put too many brilliant highlights upon it; meaning that we may put lights upon the upright form that should possibly belong to the flat-lying plane. This passion for putting too many and too brilliant "lights" upon all the forms or planes is responsible for more good studies coming to grief than any other cause."

So, here the overdone highlights compete directly with my ground plane value, and lead to a tree that is "cut up and spotty," instead of being more of a mass. Even though I'd heard this and read it many times prior to doing this study, it still happened!

-julie davis

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tree Study 9

Tree Study 9, 6 x 8 in.

Another small study.....this time, small, skinny oaks grouped together like so many here in Central Texas. These were part of a much, much larger group, and on a hillside. I began to put the rest in, and took out what I'd started--it took on a bit of a watercolor look because of it all.

-julie davis

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tree Study 8

Tree Study 8, 6 x 8 in.

A day or so ago, an artist whose work I quite admire, Randy Saffle, left a good question on my post for me regarding trees in a mass, asking "When you paint a group of trees, do you change which side of the tree is active within the same painting or do you keep it all the same side?"

I thought I would share my response in today's post since I thought it was a great question and something I needed to work with: "You can go either way, depending on the design of the composition and where you want to direct your viewer's eye. I'll have to do some groups of trees and play with that. I do think it all depends on composition.... As a mass of trees, though, you'd play down anything active within the group, and choose a side of the mass to make more active, depending on the composition.

I hope this helps. I'm still figuring it out, obviously, so thanks for the question."

I hope this helps anyone else with that question. I'll definitely be playing more with groups of trees and this concept in this study series. And thank you, Randy!

-julie davis