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Japanese Maple Tree Painting

Powder Watercolor Painting on watercolor paper, 24" x 18"

Japanese Maple Tree Painting

Powder Watercolor Painting: watercolor powder dye on watercolor paper, 24" x 18"

Paints: Fiber reactive, powder-based, watercolor dyes

Paper: Cold press, watercolor paper

Brushes: Watercolor brushes, various sizes; & a stiff, short bristled brush

History & Background of Japanese Maple Tree Painting

This painting was begun in 2001 and reached it's current state in January of 2008.  The tree is based on a real Japanese Maple that grows in Hightstown, New Jersey.  The outline of the tree was sketched en plein air (\ńⁿ-ple-ner\) with brush and watercolor.  Then within a two or three week period the tree was mainly completed indoors.  After the tree was mainly completed I began working on the ground.

Japanese maple trees grow very slowly, just like this painting.  Now, this panting is based on a huge Japanese maple tree! This means the tree is probably very old.  I'm not a horticulturalist, but I suspect it's at least 150 years old; though it can be over 200 because it's so big and developed.  It is the largest and seemingly oldest Japanese maple I've ever seen and as such, it is, to me, a perfect subject and permanent inspiration.

We all know that trees often live a lot longer than 150 or even 200 years.  Still, a 150 years is impressive compared to our time and this reminds me of a hopeful statement in Isaiah 65:22, "...for as the days of a tree so are the days of My people..."  This is claiming that "My people" will live as long as trees! What ever people can live as long as trees must be a very peculiar people.

Peculiar is also the tree which this painting is based upon, though its home, Hightstown, New Jersey, is mostly humble.  The tree grows in the backyard of an apartment where I lived for a couple of years.  Although, when I finally sketched the tree I was no longer living there.

  If the tree in the painting came from Hightstown, then where did the landscape in the painting come from? My imagination.

My imagination initially told me to put a stream behind the tree and rocky ground in front of it - around 2001.  I put it away for a while and in 2006 I began planning to work on it again.  At this time I had a new vision for the landscape.  I wanted to re-work the stream so it would become land.  But it took almost another year before I could make time to begin.  So, somewhere near or in 2007 I began the painting and re-working process.  Slowly, my vision for this painting was emerging and finally at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008 the painting reached its last stages.

Making the sky was the last challenge of this puzzle.  I began the sky after the tree and ground were painted.  However, I did add two branches with leaves, after much of the sky was made.  Can you guess which branches they are? In total, I worked the sky periodically throughout December 2007 and January 2008.  

The sky consists of three blues, which were painted in layers.  First, I painted a thin layer of baby blue.  Next, I added a thin layer of alpine blue and last I added a thin layer of turquoise.  The green paint of the grass also has some turquoise within it, so one can say, adding turquoise to the sky was a way to bring greater harmony between heaven and earth.

Japanese Maple Tree - Art


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