Monday, January 22, 2024


 In my recent post admiring a painting of a tree, someone commented that artists have been drawing trees for 30,000 years, and suggested that there could not be much new to say.  But as William Irwin said, "the question is permanent; answers are temporary."

Trees may not have changed much in 30,000 years but nevertheless here are some innovative pictures of trees that I think are absolutely marvelous:

The brilliant draftsman Robert Fawcett draws tropical trees outside a hut:

Note how he drags a drybrush along their winding forms, then rounds them with shadows of leaves:

The brilliant Bernie Fuchs, assigned to paint golfers, devoted 98% of the picture to majestic trees painted with his famous "stained glass" oil painting technique: 

The following beautifully designed reduction is from Joseph Beuys:

From the brilliant Jean Dubuffet, Four Trees:

Finally, as recently shown on another post, Milton Avery's orchard:

Monday, January 15, 2024


 I love this little study of a tree by Nathan Fowkes.

Fowkes is renowned for his mastery of color but even in this simple grayscale sketch his keen powers of observation shine through.   Look how he's able to convey the weight of that tree and the structure of that receding branch with such a lively, fluid touch.  

Fowkes ain't in the business of painting individual leaves with a 00 brush.  He has too much admiration for the universal and ageless powers of water, so he welcomes water's qualities into the picture.  Note how he records his observations using a loaded brush at lightning speed.  Water rewards his gift of freedom by imbuing his small sketch with some of water's power, making the sketch far bigger than its physical size. 

This technique only works because Fowkes is fearless about leaving the trail of his brush.  This would be a far less significant picture if he'd gone back to clean up the edges.  Fowkes earned the right to be fearless because he is a dedicated painter, constantly improving his gift.  Many illustrators today are not so brave, and that's a wise decision on their part.

Most of all, I love Fowkes' sense of design.  His composition choices are bold and imaginative: a defining horizontal stripe of daylight between a mass of leaves above and a shadow below, all glued together by that diagonal curling shape from lower left to upper right.  And while we're at it, who crops a picture of a tree with no sky behind it?  The way Fowkes composes this image, our only knowledge of sunlight comes from those abstract, dappled effects on the tree trunk. 

I find a lyricism in Fowkes' paintings, and that DNA can be present in even the smallest sketches.