Big Tree, oil on canvas, 36×66

I love trees, and the large oaks of the Pacific Northwest offer a great painting challenge. Big Tree is like a giant octopus with its many trunks, branches and twigs. I elected to reduce the number of small twigs to better reveal the multitude of trunks going off in dozens of directions. I think that using some artistic license helps to get across the grandness of this particular tree.

I painted the entire sky background first, letting it over lap the edges of the trunks and establish the negative space; my paint mixtures contain phthalocyanine blue, ultramarine blue and manganese violet in addition to white.

Next, I established the entire tree starting with the darkest areas first. These oil paint mixtures used most of the earth colors, and I leaned heavily on Utrecht’s Van Dyke brown. This particular color reads as a warm black and was the perfect choice to convey the heft and girth of these large branches.

I then worked through all the light colors and enjoyed glazing them to achieve varying levels of illumination afforded by the low angle of the winter sun.