The Trees

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.

A purple tree?  Hmmm :)
A purple tree? Hmmm 🙂

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!

10 thoughts on “The Trees

  1. It is a wonderful story and a tree as a symbol of yourself is a great choice. You are a strong person that can share your thoughts and feelings. Looking forward to where your art journey will take you.


  2. I always think of Jesus when I see your red tree – ironic that it set you free? Probably not 😉 Looking forward to seeing your red trees pop up and the new things God will use your work for unbenounced to you or not ♡


  3. I always enjoy reading your blog. As I have said before, you are quite the philosopher. The red tree always made me think of passion and energy and new beginnings. Thanks for sharing, Tim.


  4. Another artist used your red tree (and some other artist’s paintings of red trees too) to show how individuals depict a common subject differently. When I saw the paintings I thought to myself ‘that one looks like a Gagnon tree’, Further down the page, sure enough, there was your name listed among the artists. So yes, your red tree is you. Thank you for sharing how to paint them in your videos, (I have painted 2 or 3 of them myself!!). Cheers


  5. I enjoyed reading this. Why not make the next tree the last and cause a frenzy – all those galleries jostling to get that last Tim Gagnon red tree ?!?:)


  6. I can’t wait to see “your artwork”. I think one of the coolest things is to really have that imagination and creativity. You must certianly have it. Even your landscapes are so incredibly evocative.


  7. I think it’s so valuable to remember who we were, and are now, and where we are going (our desires for the future) because without respecting what the past has brought you, you don’t have appreciation for your process required to grow further. But I also think we need to be careful of not being pigeon holed by continuing to grow in diversity. And diversity will grow your own soul. Charlie Peacock spoke at a retreat I attended about the one draw back in his life was intentionally being known to be a Christian, and mentoring up coming Christian artists (Art House America). It pigeon holed him in a way that the those in his field put him in the same place as a lot Christian producers, actors, films,… a sort of sub par, that’s all you can do, you won’t be good enough for the secular community, attitude. And that was not true about him. He had a passion, and an extraordinary gift, but often was passed up as a choice because his beliefs pigeon holed him. It’s very hard to get passed that once it happens but I think you are on the right track Tim, with diversifying, and letting the public see more of the fullness of who you are…not just the red tree. And still, the red tree is important…it is where you came from, not to be forgotten but honored.


  8. Hi, I like the red tree, it sends me back in memories from my childhood that are full of happiness and relief. The purple one I see it as a vision of the Jurassic era. 🙂 Great!


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