Monday, July 13, 2015

Trees and Forests

I have always loved trees. I love urban trees and have often thought about sketching some of the awesome urban trees I walk by daily in Centretown, Ottawa. Look at these two beautifully symmetrical trees framing the driveway to a Nepean site!

Entrance to Nepean construction site
My art journal: water colour and ink

Photo reference

As a hiker, canoeist and artist, there is something wonderful about being surrounded by trees. There are no words.

The Germans came up with the word "waldeinsamkeit" that is untranslatable into english. “Wald” meaning forest, and “Einsamkeit” meaning loneliness or solitude. 

In my youth there was an incredible oak tree in Cooksville (now Mississauga) that was a gathering place for me and my friends. It sat in the middle of a farmer's field and had huge branches so large that you could climb the tree and comfortably lie down on them without fear of falling.

I loved sketching trees. Below is a page (now thirty years old) from my 1986 sketchbook where I was trying to practice silhouettes of conifer trees.

My sketches of conifer silhouettes from my 1986 sketchbook
(on flickr)
1973 Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting
I love the way John Carlson directs the artist to paint trees: "You will learn to paint trees only by understanding them, their growth, their nature, their movement - and realizing that they are conscious living things....To the artist, the forest is an asylum of peace and dancing shadows."

John F. Carlson
(The black and white reproductions of
Carlson's trees in his book do them no justice)

Ottawa's Dominion Arboretum

The Friends of the Central Experimental Farm (FCEF)  in Ottawa will be offering a wonderful  Guided Tree Tour on Sunday July 19 and I signed up. ( If you are interested, the tour is free and open to the public, but you must register in advance at or call 613-230-3276.)

Tour leaders Owen Clarkin and Roman Popadiouk will lead the group through the Arboretum and discuss the kinds of trees which can be found growing in Ottawa. Techniques for identifying trees at the genus level (e.g. oak vs. maple) and species level (e.g. Bur Oak vs. Swamp White Oak) will be explained using the trees encountered on the tour as examples.

Below, Sunday's tour leader Owen Clarkin was recorded giving a talk at the Grace Centre in Sydenham on April 12th, 2014. His talk was entitled: "Trees Worth Knowing in Eastern Ontario."

Ottawa Artist - Aleta Karstad

This tree talk video introduced me to Ottawa artist Aleta Karstad. Owen Clarkin commissioned a painting of the ancient Rock Elm (his preoccupation) in Merrickville (oil, 36 x 24 in.) by Aleta Karsta.

The Ottawa Society of Botanical Artists featured Aleta's painting progression on their blog:

Rock Elm commissioned by Owen Clarkin
Oil (36 x 24 in.) by Aleta Karstad

I learned that after Aleta studied for three years at Central Tech in Toronto, she then studied with Doris McCarthy (whom I had written about before). Oh, how I would love to hear more about that!

Tree Sketches

Sketch of oldest live oak tree in Mobile, Alabama
My art journal: water colour and ink

Ottawa Tree Links:

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