Tag Archives: tree paintings

Themes – Trees

Above: Spring Sycamore. Acrylic on 20×16″ canvas. Rose Strang 2013

As I’m currently painting a private commission which must remain secret until October 2021, I thought I’d post themed blogs in the meantime. Today’s theme is Trees.

My last theme was Sea. In the next few weeks I’ll also share my paintings on the themes of mountains, portraits, winter, abstraction, imagination and collaborations

It’s easy to imagine dryads or sidhe (faerie folk) hiding behinds trees in ancient forests. Many children’s stories or fantasies are set in the woods; think Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, or Robin Hood! Trees seem to spark imagination – for good or ill (think of all those spooky tales or films set in forests!) I’ve wondered why this is – perhaps it’s the fact that in a forest so much is hidden – it’s a metaphor for the unconscious, for the unlawful and rebelious.

I find that painting trees requires loose brushwork (or loose line if it’s drawing) though in a different way from sea painting – not so much gestural as allowing the paint to drip and splash, leaving patches to imagination, with a strong sense of light/dark to bring depth so the viewer is led into the forest.

When painting forests of the Scottish Borders in 2014, I was inspired by the last line of a Borders Ballad called Erlinton, about a girl who escapes to the forests to be with her lover; now we shall walk the green-wood free. To me that line beautifully evokes the idea of Medieval tapestries and tales. So with that in mind, to enhance your viewing pleasure of the tree paintings below, here’s a music piece for lute by William Byrd – Will you Walk the Woods so Wild –  Byrd

Or if you prefer, here’s a beautiful performance of Dvorik’s Silent Woods from From the Bohemian Forest –  Silent Woods

I’ve headed each set below with these terms: Spring  Summer  Autumn  Winter

Spring

My favourite time of year – from the softening of air in March, to the explosion of flowers in April and May. I think it’s inspired my best tree paintings! Spring Sycamore, below, was bought by my dad in 2013. Probably because it was painted after a walk we took in spring near Queensferry. My dad passed away in 2016 and is remembered with great love by everyone who knew him. When we were kids he’d make tree swings in Queensferry forest with lassoe techniques on the highest branches of huge beech trees, so you could swing down an entire valley, terrifying at first, then exhiliarating! As he used to say, tongue in cheek (perhaps?) ‘if a kid isnae terrified it’s no a proper game’!

I was quite happy with the minimal paintings from the Water of Leith series below, I wanted to capture more with less (they’ve not sold though!) Spring Chinoiserie was a bit of a nod to Pollock, who expressed the energy of nature with rhythmic drips and splashes of household paint. Some works here – Pollock

Bare trees are all about lyrical line – I’m also thinking of beautiful tree drawings by the wonderful illustrator Pauline Baynes. Link to her drawings – Baynes

Summer

Emma and Friends (below) captures something of the idyllic feel of summer I hope. It’s of my niece and her friends after they’d completed their final school exams. They took a swim in the River Tweed and the green light of summer transformed them into luminous mythical nyads!  Most of these tree and forest paintings in 2014 were from a series inspired by Borders Ballads, as mentioned in my intro above. Technique-wise, I was more than a little inspired by a painting I love by Peter Doig  – scroll down on link to ‘Concrete Cabin’ – Doig

Autumn

Autumn can crackle with electric blue skies and neon oranges, or glow gently in a somnabulic way that makes me feel pleasantly gloomy and introspective. It signals hibernation to come, decay and the passing of time, with the smell of mulchy leaves and woodsmoke in the air, it’s almost clichedly poetic I suppose. Last year I’d planned a series inspired by October in a Highland mountain valley, but the focus for now is my current commission (to be revealed in October this year).

Gustav Klimt’s birches are unsurpassed I think – Klimt

Winter

Although spring is my favourite time of year, winter is endlessly inspiring creatively. The starkness and subtleties of tone make us focus on line and contrast. The monochrome work below; Canonhill Park – is the only time I’ve used a very definite technique as oppposed to experimental – the white blobs are impasto against a black ink flat background, I quite liked it it, but only for this one-off subject.

The paintings of Scottish artists Calum McClure and Andrew MacKenzie focus on line and nature, rather than colour. Winter trees feature in much of their work. McClure’s paintings are lyrical, loose and painterly, MacKenzie’s are more contained, with minimalist composition and delicate line – McClure

–   MacKenzie

Lastly, no post about trees would be complete without mention of Arthur Rackham. For anyone brought up with books featuring Rackham’s illustrations, ‘Rackham-esque’ is an unofficial term for magical-looking trees! Rackham

In the next blog the theme is mountains

'Forest of Ardban'. Oil on 20 x 10 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2020

Forests of Ardban

Above; Forest of Ardban. Oil on 20 x 10 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2020.

This painting, finished today, is for a private client, it was a delight to paint and I’m still really enjoying the process of oil paints – they seem to do half my work for me in the way they serindipitously merge and meandre on the wood!

These forests, near Applecross in the west coast of Scotland, are beautifully wild and untouched. I wanted to get across that feel almost of northern rain forest – lush and primordial, Venusian, magical and fecund! I’m happy to say I’m heading up there (travel restrictions willing) later this year, where I’ll be painting a new series for the excellent Limetree Gallery in Bristol.

The exhibition will be a three-artist show and I’ll post more about that soon. It’s an absolute delight to be exhibiting again, especially with a gallery that I’ve really enjoyed working with over the years. You can view their website here – Limetree Gallery, Bristol

Trees ..

 

Today’s attempt to paint trees of Ariundle forest in Ardnamurchan …

It’s tricky to get the luminous colour, damp atmosphere and odd mossy shapes without straying into a sort of Hobbit-shire territory – all too easy to make it look picturesque without getting the feel of being there. The particularly lurid one started as a paint palette – there was a nice build up of impasto paint, so I played around with that.

Being in Ariundle forest felt extremely lush and alive – the sense of a complicated ancient eco-system – Ariundle is the remnant of ancient oak wood that once stretched all the way along the Atlantic coast.

Last week I went along to Highland River, an exhibition featuring the work of journalist and presenter Andrew Marr. It was curated by Richard Demarco (co-curated by Fernanda Zei) at Summerhall in Edinburgh and included a really enjoyable conversation between Richard and Andrew Marr. They talked about the art of failing while painting. Judging by the empathic laughs from the audience there were plenty of artists there!

As Marr described – you make a mark and realise it’s a mistake, so you remedy that and keep making marks until it feels right (‘then you ruin it’, I muttered to myself) ‘Then you ruin it’ Marr echoed.

I bought his book on painting, much of which I agreed with (his views on Auerbach, Kurt Schwitters and others) some aspects not – for example his take on Beuys, it’s all subjective of course – but I thought Beuys had an incredible talent with deceptively simple, expressive line and colour. It’s a challenging book in some ways since he’s engaged with working with paint to explore complex ideas. Though not a conceptual artist, his approach is intellectual. Occasionally I attempt a deeper or more conceptual approach to painting and the results are often a complete mess. It is less challenging to simply attempt to capture the texture of tree bark in simple paint strokes or lines, but I find that valid in my world. Every so often something clicks into place and stronger ideas emerge.

Enough waffle though, this week I’ll write more on the Medieval planets theme – early spring; represented by Mars.

Highland River continues until 27th April – info here Highland River

Ariundle (in progress)

Today’s work on Ariundle Wood in Sunart on the west coast of Scotland. Once it’s dry I’ll be adding some foreground detail – spring twiglets and leaf buds.

All four of the first paintings (below) of Ardnamurchan are now in the Morningside Gallery, Edinburgh.

‘Sanna Bay, dusk’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel. Rose Strang, 2019

‘Ardnamurchan, Sheep’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel. Rose Strang, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Sanna Bay,afternoon’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel. Rose Strang, 2019

‘Sanna Bay, sand dune’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel. Rose Strang, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also my new series of Ardnamurchan and Sunart will be part of an up-coming three-person exhibition at the Resipole Gallery on the west coast of Scotland, which is run by artist Andrew Sinclair (who converted a former agricultural byre into the gallery over two years).

I took some photos when I was there in September last year ..

 

 

 

 

And this year in March – some really nice work in the main gallery by Jane Rushton Breathing Spaces ..

 

 

 

I’ll post exact details of the exhibition soon, and send a link to the paintings once they’re added to the Resipole’s website. In the meantime, you can have a browse on this link – Resipole

The gallery shows the work of some of Scotland’s most talented artists featured in the recent spring publication of the excellent Art North –  a new arts magazine focusing on Scottish contemporary arts.  Link here – Art North

 

 

 

 

Borders Country Day 21

P1260026Today’s painting, Birch trees on a larger canvas of 40×30 inches.

I went a bit Jackson Pollock with some household undercoat paint, which was fun. I wanted to capture an early spring sort of light, more delicate and gentle.

Lots of admin’ to do for the exhibition so I don’t have much time to elaborate! I hope you’re all enjoying the summer weather.

Studio photo, people have said they like these so I’ll post one each day..

P1260029

Borders Country Series

P1250985Below are all available paintings from the Borders Series and exhibition, The Green Woods Free, which continues until the 23rd July