I began painting the champion yellow birch on my second-to-last day as artist-at work in the Deer Isle Artists Association gallery in January.
I had vowed to do a painting in oil in the DIAA gallery because I can’t do it at home, at least in the winter. The fumes concentrate in our gas dryer and our gas stove, making our clothes and food stink — something to which Dan strongly objects. Imagine that.
I brought some canvases, paint, oil brushes, miscellaneous solvents and an easel to the gallery in early january. For three weeks they taunted me. Finally on Day 22 I took the plunge.
I had an image in mind. In the fall of 2016 I took my mom, visiting from Cape Cod, to the Yellow Birch Farm on the Reach Road in Deer Isle. It’s an amazing place, owned by Missy Greene and Eric Ziner. It has goats, vegetables, Missy’s amazing ceramics and Eric’s wonderful metal sculptures. I met Missy at the Stonington Farmers Market, where she kindly offered to sell our frozen clam chowder pies from their farmstand.
But I digress. Mom and I ran into Eric at the farm, and he told us how to find the champion birch tree in the woods. It’s actually a former champion; Eric said they delisted it because people were taking too many pieces from it. So we found the tree in all its autumn glory. I took a few photos of Mom admiring the champion yellow birch and tucked them into my subconscious.
When I got out my oil paints, I knew I wanted to attack it with bold outlines of black paint. That approach worked with a painting I did in Florence a few years ago.
Anatomically she’s a little off, but I like it anyway.
Oil is a very different medium than watercolor. It seems to take a lot more time to finish an oil painting (and definitely more time to clean the brushes), but less time to master the medium.
I’m not sure if I want to leave The Champion Yellow Birch the way it is, or work on it some more this summer when I can paint outside. Stay tuned.