Tree of Life

Hello everyone !

I am Lexa, a sixth year student from the French section, and I want to present a painting I have recently done. It represents a tree inspired by the ancient Tree of Life, from the Scandinavian mythology, and it was done with acrylics on a cotton canvas in approximately five hours. This is the fourth painting I have ever done on a canvas, and I am pretty proud of it, despite some mistakes I think I could have avoided.

What was my inspiration for this work ? This 1958 documentary film gave me the idea.

Narrated by Walt Disney himself, it explains how four artists from the Disney studio used the very same tree as a model but wound up painting completely different pictures. Each of them captured a particular aspect of the tree and created a unique atmosphere. I was simply amazed by how much such an artwork can reveal about its author. As Henri Robert puts it in his book “The Art Spirit”, “the artist always has something to say. He doesn’t paint men, landscapes, or furniture, but an idea”. Each individual, in all the diversity of the human kind, has ideas that are subject to perpetual change, expressed in an infinity of absolutely unique forms. But an artist will differ from other human beings in that he is expressing his ideas through his work. Even if a piece of art depicts a tangible object, which is in a set state of existence, the end result will always be a reflection of the artist's views and personality.
From the start, I decided that I wanted to do a slightly different experience : I realised that if I wanted to paint more, and to make more art in general, I needed to let go of strict realism and rules. Moreover, every professional artist claims that if you are afraid of making mistakes, you will never learn and never be able to progress. So I decided to draw the Tree of Life however I wanted, to appreciate every moment and to learn as much as I could from the process.

The result : I really enjoyed myself! While I can’t seem to find a part I disliked, my favourite part of it clearly was applying the grey paint on the branches. I am especially proud of the way the illusion of the white branches turned out. Good to mess with people's brains I guess. I have sometimes been told that they look slightly macabre, which – I have to admit it - pleased me. It pleased me because after all, death is part of life and some artists I admire, such as Tim Burton, focus a lot on darker themes. On the other hand, my least favourite part of the work was filling in the space between the roots with that blue-greyish colour. It was long and slightly boring but it had to be done.

Finally, a crucial aspect of the creation process was the background music I listened to. If you choose well, music can set you in the perfect mood to paint and have a result that exactly matches your expectations. Or it can lead you to a totally different outcome, which can also be interesting. So, as much as I love AC/DC, their music was not exactly suited to the atmosphere I wished to create in my painting. I listened to the album of the Common Linnets, a Dutch country band formed in 2013, which became famous with their song “Calm after the storm”. I also take this opportunity to recommend you listen to their first (and so far, only) album, especially the songs “The Arms of Salvation”, “Lovers and Liars” and “Time Has No Mercy”.
In conclusion, I enjoyed the experience very much and learned from it a lot, too: for example, you should always paint the background before the front object and not the opposite. Unless you want to do like the brilliant Vincent van Gogh in his Almond blossom.

by Lexa

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