I’ve kind of become known for painting trees. Sometimes when I paint a tree its extremely automatic depending on how decorative the painting is. If it’s something that’s going to match a couch I turn my brain on autopilot, turn into a zombie for a few hours, and then suddenly awake to a finished painting. Okay, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but just a little.
When I was younger I used to try to find live performances of Nirvana playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the song that made them famous. Every single video I found, and every recording I heard it sounded like they played that song just because they were known for it, and they let everyone know how much they didn’t like playing it live with how bad it sounded, or by how much they could fool around and be weird when they played it. It always bugged me that they never played it seriously. I was painting a red tree the other day and for a moment I thought to myself “huh, okay, I get it Nirvana, I get it.”
Don’t get my wrong, I don’t hate painting red trees. Actually I like it, because I have good meaning behind that red tree. I always remind myself why I painted a red tree to begin with, and it makes it easier. Plus painting those trees are a piece of cake :). Even though I like it, I get asked by galleries to paint the red tree a lot. It’s a popular selling item. Which is cool, I enjoy selling my work. But there’s this little personality brewing inside me that keeps saying “stop painting the red tree, that’s all people will know you for.” I really don’t want to get pigeon holed into a red tree. It’s a scary thought for me. I paint soooooo many other things. I really like painting weird stuff to be honest with you all. I like surreal, and I like dreamy, I like telling a story.
So here’s the story of the red tree. When I was in college, my professor would talk about color a lot. How great artists used unique colors to create mood and feeling. Red being passionate, or firey, or energized, black is dark, scary, sad, evil, white is spiritual, fresh, godly etc.. etc. We would look at paintings all the time where some of the old masters would put certain color clothes on people so you knew who was good, who was bad, who was passionate and so on. So years later, when I started painting for a living, I developed this unique tree. It’s not really any specific species. It’s a Tim tree as some people at workshops call it. It’s kind of a cross between a maple tree and an oak tree. Anyway, the tree itself is somewhat of a self portrait. I really think of trees as people in my landscapes. They all have personality, and all kind of have their own story.
I started painting this lone tree as somewhat of a self portrait. One day I was really angry about how hard it was to be an artist, and how I felt like I was going to have to go back to a job I didn’t want to do because I wasn’t making any money. I can have a temper. Some say it’s the Carman temper (My mother’s side of the family) or some say it’s the Gagnon temper (My dad’s side). Well, it’s probably a mutated super version or something, cause I was not happy at all that day. I thought to myself that I was going to just start painting to try and relieve the stress, and I ended up grabbing a red tube of paint when it came time to start highlighting the tree. It felt so good to paint that tree red. It made me feel a lot better. Little did I know that I had just painted the signature thing that was going to put me back on the upslope away from starving artist and toward successful artist.
That’s the short version of the story of the red tree. Now you all know that the tree represents me. It has become more or less a happy tree now, but at the time it was a firey tree full of energy. Now I look at it as the turning point and the energy that was all contained in the first tree trickles through each one that I paint now.
Getting back to my initial thought. I worry about trapping myself with the red tree, but at the same time it kind of set me free and allowed me to do what I do now. I never thought I was a landscape artist, and I still don’t think of myself as one. Yes, I do paint landscapes, but my landscapes are all from my imagination and my feelings. It makes them different to me, than just recording the land and light. I’m slowly opening up and showing people my other artwork, and look forward to letting that take the lead eventually.
Thanks for coming by!