Why we paint what we paint, or who chopped down the cherry tree?

Dark, sweet Bing cherries are my favorite.

I live in the high desert. Who knew cherries could grow here? A while back they were selling Black Tartanian cherry trees so we wagged one home and plopped it into the ground. It turns out they don’t grow here. After struggling for an entire season it died. Too hot.

Baby grapes in our yard

We pulled it up and replaced it with an apricot which is doing well. The birds are happy about this. Very happy. Almost as happy as they are about the grapes.

Of course I had to paint the tree’s root ball. I wasn’t as interested in the dirt and those crazy roots but I was mesmerized by the subtle violet hues on the trunk and all those little grey eyes.

Cherry Tree Root, oil on panel, 16x12 in
Cherry Tree Root (study), oil on panel, 16×12 in

Much of my work is inspired by nature and by how we relate to it or not, and how that provides a metaphor for our relating, or not, to our deepest selves. This painting is somewhat different than my usual approach and more straight forward. Still, it relates to memento mori which is a big area of interest for me.

I knew this study (and memento mori in general – let’s face it, who wants to think about death?) might hold little appeal for anyone else, and that perhaps no one would ever want to want to hang it on their wall. But I had to paint it none the less. It was a compulsion.

Cherry-StripThis raises questions about what we choose to paint and why.

Why do you paint what you do?

How much of what you do as an artist is born of compulsion, of a need to paint a certain thing, of a desire to communicate ideas?  How concerned are you that others will relate to what you’ve done? How closely does what you paint align with why you paint?

I’d love to hear your answers to these questions and hear about your approach to your work. Please share your thoughts in the comments.


2 Replies to “Why we paint what we paint, or who chopped down the cherry tree?”

  1. Hi Jean, Although my work is improvisational, I often start with a very clear graphic/schematic image in my mind that I do get an “itch” to get down. I remember one time awakening at ~2:00 in the morning with the image of a straight-up gable against a dark sky that became “Ghostly Gate.” This morning I have the persistent idea that the “rays” in my burst paintings (themselves derived from agaves) should become more sinuous like tentacles. Fair to say that I am now in the grip of that image . . .

    Speaking of succulents – I love your 4X4’s at the Unsettled Gallery. Hope some are still available. CC

    1. Yes, I find it is amazing how I can wake in the middle of the night and start thinking about my work and then have trouble sleeping because I want to be starting something! I can totally see what you mean about the peaks in your paintings developing from the Agave form. I can’t wait to see how the tentacles evolve from that!
      I’m glad you like the succulents. Thanks. Happily, they all just sold so I’ll have to get busy and do more…

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