My usual process is to work out the composition with a drawing first, but here, I jumped right in with the paint. I chose this angle because it shows the branches gracefully arching up and out to the left. While working, I've realized that the painting is not only about the trunk and it's branches, but also the space between me and the tree. Another thing I noticed, is that each time I would return to paint, the tree would sometimes be covered with small ferns. Somebody pointed out to me that this was the 'resurrection' fern, an air plant not actually attached to the tree. When there's moisture out, the leaves open up, and when it's dry, they curl up and remain dormant....very cool.
As I continued, I began to see so much that I was editing out, both with the tips of the branches as they moved to my left and the canopy above. I also wanted to include this tiny patch of unobstructed sky, and this would have occurred in the upper left hand corner of the canvas (had I used a larger canvas.)
As I continued to look at it back in my studio, I realized that the painting needed some more space. After doing some measurements on site with the painting in front of me, I figured out a plan to add on. There would be a panel attached to the left side and another on the top, and I would attach them with bolts through the frames from behind:
I worked on it like this for awhile, but wasn't really satisfied with the way the different panels were fitting together. The seams were slightly off, with some irregularity and problems with the alignment, and I wasn't really sure how the different panels were functioning with the concept of the piece as a whole. The painting being pieced together seemed arbitrary and haphazard. What I wanted to paint was a cohesive depiction of a clearly defined space, and the new format wasn't working. It was a tough call to start over after so much had been done, but I knew it was necessary.
After some careful measuring, I re-cropped the overall image again, dismantled what I had started, made a new frame, and stretched a new piece of linen. I stapled the three different panels to a large piece of plywood and then gridded it out using string. From this, I could transfer what I had started, reproducing the entire image on the larger canvas in my studio.
Not wanting to ditch the original canvas I started with, I decided to re-stretch that one again and work on both simultaneously. The smaller one I work on during overcast days, which is how I originally envisioned the light, and the second, larger one, is the one I work on during clear days. The two pieces now become a tandem piece, functioning not only as the same image seen in differing light, but also as a window that zooms out of the scene:
|in progress - 21" x 28"|
|in progress - 25" x 37"|