On Painting Trees. by Ryan Strochinsky, July 1st 2017

How do you learn landscape painting? In a Corot you can feel a naked animism, the wind some how whirls within the umbers and ochres. The painting is as natural as the world it depicts, as though its always been here and will always be. We are here to study, yet the trees we paint are aggressively untaught. We work in the shadows of the old masters just as much as we work in the shifting shade of now spruces. If Constable, Van Gogh, and Monet are our teachers, then trunks, boughs, and branches are our guides—guides to the alchemy of poetry, catalyst to enchantment, components of evocation.

In a world of Hollywood cinema, mass production, standardization, and environmental uncertainty it is somehow just as passé as it is heretical to paint a tree, or maybe it is heretical because it is passé. It is a tired subject after all, but one that carries its fatigue with dignity, one that rest, but refuses to sleep. The poetic echoes of trees run deep, from the Christian Tree of Life to the Buddhist Bodhi Tree. Every Christmas we bring trees into our homes, and every breathe we take is filtered through a tree’s leaf.

In 2017 my wrist bends to articulate a curved branch and some how the bones in my arm translates pigment to the language of light and shadow. It’s easy to be romantic about landscape painting, landscape painting is romantic. But we work hard here, hard and thoughtfully. We are trying to capture what is present, what is eternal.