Conversations between Trees Recorded in a Large Painting

The earth turns and the sun comes up. The earth turns again and the sun goes down. This is one simple measure of a day. What time will it be tomorrow morning when the first light reaches the eastern side of the island? At about what time this evening will it be too dark to safely take the compost down the stairs and under the trees at the edge of yard without a flashlight? When will the snowdrops start to bloom on the southwest side of the house?  What difference does a day make, or even a few hours? These questions are possibly best answered by trees. At least, this is what I am musing about today as I continue my inner travels.

Last week I shared with you a large 60 x 40 inch canvas with a red ground. Now, on this most difficult week of racial profiling immigration orders in the United States and terrorist killings of Muslim worshipers allegedly by a white male in Canada, I shall take you through the development of this large painting to the point where it is resting.

(In the beginning a few painted lines guide the compositions on large canvas.)

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I mention these two disturbing horrific North America events because I believe no painter can control their brushstrokes against the influences from within their daily lives. I am no exception. I frequently use my painting to process of everyday life with conscious deliberate acknowledgement.

(Getting somewhere on the  large canvas.)

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But my end results do not often depict this struggle to make sense out of senseless acts. Instead, the canvases frequently conclude with a clear message of hope, possibility and resilience. I believe this is because our interconnectedness is the greatest gift that the landscape continues to offer me.

(Blocked in with major decisions made about large composition.)

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I did have it in mind to simplify this painting and leave out the young fir tree on the bottom right and the old fir tree on the left. But the storytelling arbutus tree was having none of it. These trees need each other to create harmony and balance in their ecosystem and for that same reason they are needed in this composition. It would be a mistake to think that this ancient storytelling arbutus tree has survived on its own.

Of course, I am not the first painter, nor will I be the last, who studies the trees. A week ago, I purchased an amazing book of new sketches discovered to be by the hand of one of my mentors, Vincent Van Gogh. The sketches have remained hidden for 120 years and have created all sorts of scholarly disputes and discussions about their authenticity since the book was published in November 2016. The author, Bogomila Wesh-Ovcharov, is a Canadian art historian and specialist in Van Gogh. She is also a good writer. The book, with its 65 actual-size sketches, makes for tantalizing study.

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One of the sketches in this book of four people in an olive grove has particularly captured my attention.

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I am specifically reminded how in the past our daily work would often take us out into a forest or a grove of trees. Currently for me, this connection is my daily walks or plein air painting to gather reference material for larger landscape canvases. But the relatively recent changes to urban living means my experience is a much more rare. In 1800, only 3 percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. By 1900, almost 14 percent were urbanites. In 1950, 30 percent of the world’s population resided in urban centers.  At times, in some locations this is still a routine practice. But for most of the 82 percent of urbanites in North America and 54 percent in the world, it is history, leaving large segments of our populations with no direct experience of their relationship between trees, and the landscape. These are the many individuals I believe who may have lost their ability to see the moon. Their lack of awareness, appreciation and understanding about our interconnectedness to trees, the sky, the sea and the land leaves them blind to the moon. For many our natural elements and our dependency on them for our well-being is an abstract concept, rather than an intake of breath with a thank you to a tree. For these individuals the moon is no longer there. I am guessing that with this loss comes another lost, the loss of knowledge about our interdependency and interconnectedness not only to trees but also to each other. In these conditions greed, fear and hatred can take root in the fertile ground of disconnect.

This is why I paint this grand storytelling arbutus tree on a large canvas in my home studio. I am hoping that, when a viewer sees this finished painting, they will remember and experience their connectedness to all things in our natural world. They will again be able to see the moon, the tree and each other with kindness and appreciation. This is my wish anyway. It may be a naive and foolish wish but I must try. And no I do not think a daily walk in the woods will cure all the ills of human short-comings. I do believe it can do no harm and that it has a chance of allowing us to reconnect with our own goodness and act with care and compassion in the face of hatred and greed.

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The painting is not quite finished but it is close. Another couple of sessions with my brush and paints will see it complete. Here is where the painting is at this week.

Resting “Storytelling Arbutus Tree Bennett Bay Mayne Island BC” 60 x 40 inch oil on canvas.

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The next time we see this storytelling arbutus tree painting it will be released in a post on the website. But for now, we can enjoy our interconnectedness to it and all that is. We have in this an opportunity to build our resilience, to gather our energies in the face of possibly some of the most difficult times in recent history in Canada and the United States.

This what I heard from the trees this week.

 

Have you found a storytelling tree near where you live? If so, what is it telling you?

 

© 2017 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com

Why Paint a Landscape of Avignon France?

 

Fingers pressed to lips and on tiptoes I invite you to quietly join me in the loft studio this morning. You see, I don’t believe that my page full of “to do” items including paintings to be shipped to their new homes and time management will exactly approve of this diversion. But if we keep it quiet, maybe no one will notice us. So come on up. It is a little early so we will need to turn on the studio lamp.

With all the gorgeous west coast landscapes to paint you might wonder why I would travel half way around the world to paint a landscapes in France. The truth is I wanted the tension of a shorter, but still substantial, span of time. We might say that North America offers this with its more recent European occupation. However, what I experience on the southwest coast of Canada is thousands of years evident in the landscape and then the present interruption of humankind. Most buildings and such on the west coast still standing are less than two hundred years old. Yes, aboriginal people have been here for a few thousand years but they have left few footprints on the landscape. Europe and France in particular are different. We can still see evidence for easily over 600 years in one gaze looking across the Rhone River in Avignon France. This is somehow important to me as I intuit the tension in a landscape. We live in environmentally parlous times of exponentially climate change. In 2012 about half the world’s population lived in urban areas and this percentage is expected to continue to increase – quickly. the result is that our agrarian sensibilities and relationships to our natural surrounding on the whole are weak. For those populations that survive the next few hundred years, I believe this must become a strength. Yet, as we abstract our way through internal and external elements of our human creations, the natural landscape appears to hold little interest other than a thing of beauty and a place of recreation. This objectification of our natural surroundings places us and it at great risk through our false sense of possession or proprietary combined with ever-decreasing regard and understanding of the lines of tension and intersection of our relationship. These are my musings anyway and is the backdrop for my most resent painting MORNING BY PONT D’ AVIGNON (24 x 36 inch oil on canvas)   and its cousin below of the same size which is still in its underpainting state with bits of masking tap marking lines of intersection and tension.

 

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Judging from the plein air acrylic painting sketch I did, once the painting is completed these tensions will be mostly felt rather than seen (though now that I have so explicitly shown them to you, I am sure you will notice them more readily.) I anticipate that our eyes will keep roaming the scene searching for something until it unravels these tensions to the mind’s satisfaction. My desire is that we will know that it is more than a beautiful view, someplace to gaze,  to sit, to stroll or to sail. I want us to  intuitively sense the strength and fragility of this landscape – after all there are hundreds of years of human intersection with the environment visible in this painting and my intention is to inviting us to take the time for such an exploration.  Our west coast of Canada has a much harder time offering this same invitation. It is much more immediate, wild and possibly even too forgiving of our ignorance – until possibly it is too late. So I have called on a morning in Avignon France with her abandon bridge across the Rhone to give us a hand.

I know! Here you thought I was on vacation and this was all about just painting another pretty picture.  It could be I suppose. But I intend to instill such strength and tension in my brushstrokes that you will stay long enough to get past the beauty and to the substance behind this work. The act of painting is a spiritual exercise, a meditation, a recital of a poem and possibly even a practice of prayer. The subject in this case, in most cases, has to do with our fragile, temporary and continued existence.

Now, if you will excuse me, I must do a wee bit of painting before that  “to do” list comes charging up the stairs and demands to know where I have been.

 

What invitations are you accepting to strengthen your relationship to our natural environment?

 

© 2014 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com