Subject: a tree. That seemed simple enough. There is definitely no lack of trees in my garden. Actually, the gardens in this entire neighborhood are so crowded with trees – Spruces, Aspens, Maples, Lindens – that some of them barely have enough room. The roots of some of the older trees reach deep under the foundation of homes and cause major cracks in walls and floors, other trees reach out to the sky with long, swaying arms, providing resilient springboards for the dozens of squirrels that populate them. And some trees look for elbow room by trying to climb the fence, hoping to plant their roots elsewhere, like my neighbor's Colorado spruce.
I thought that spruce made an interesting subject. While I was painting, every now and then the sun tempted a come-back through the dark layer of clouds – with little to no success – but at a certain point I was so absorbed by my Colorado spruce that I couldn't care less about the weather: I had forgotten how hard it was to paint a tree, moreover a conifer.
That pushy spruce was a challenge. How do you render needles? How do you render foliage at all? Well, you can’t by just looking at it and by trying to paint what you see. You have to look right through that green mass and try to fathom the essence of it.
“Paint what you can’t see,” I said to myself, “All you can do is try to feel the spruce, and smell it.”
I kept a freshly cut branch on my table and caught wafts of its poignant fragrance whenever the airflow in the room changed. I became aware of the fact that color is not just a visual sensation; it involves other senses as well, and can still be clearly perceived even when the world’s color mode is temporarily set to grayscale.