Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ute Reservation Sentinal Tree

Ute Reservation Sentinel Tree (work in progress)
oil on canvas, 20x16 in

I drove past this tree any number of times, which is probably why I can't remember just exactly where it is now. Except that it is on the Ute Reservation in Colorado, just after coming into it from somewhere else on a rarely traveled back road (which is why it was my preferred route). The only tree on a narrow wedge after the road climbed onto the mesa, it was always like a welcome sentinal to me. And that is what I remember. I could figure out where by looking at it in context with the photos I took on the same roll (pre-digital), but it doesn't really matter. What matters is how this mesa and this tree are part of who I am.

Of course, being the only tree on a bluff accounts for its somewhat bedraggled appearance. It is, inevitably, a lightning tree. The inside is living, but the outer limbs are skeletal and reddened from weathering where the lightening traveled down the outside of the tree and killed the tips of branches.

It is to me, nonetheless, a beautiful tree. I hope to go back to that bluff and I hope it is still there to welcome me.

Of course I have photos as well as memories, and when I came across the photos one day last fall, I set them aside so that I could make a painting as well. It is coming slowly, because I wanted the feeling, not just an ordinary landscape. This canvas has been on and off my easel for several weeks, as I felt my way through how best represent it. It is still in progress, though I think I am near now. I ordered some zinc white to mist in the lower sky and below the bluff, and some terra rosa for the tree's "lightning aura". And that may be it.

This may be the last "realistic" painting I do for a while (though I do have one reworked that I will post after it dries). I have several other paintings in various stages, and all are explorations of shape and color and composition that draw on but do not represent real things. So freeing, so much fun. More in another post.