Tree of Life – how a painting is born, part I 2

I decided to give me a more prolonged break from the the triptych and work in a different project. since I had planned to submit a piece to the beautiful Embracing Our Differences exhibit, I decided to start working on it. I thought that it might be also a good opportunity to show in more details how I create and build a picture – and how crazy and erratic the creation process can be.

the image submitted to the exhibit should not be very complex, but rather transmit the idea of acceptance and tolerance of the differences in a direct way. sometimes it’s not easy for me to think simple, I have a certain knack for complexities – but not exactly because I plan them. then I had the idea to make a group of androgynous figures of different colors emerging from the ground. the figures should not show in their bodies nothing that could resemble race, or genre. the colors should be regular ones, like red, green and yellow, for example, and not skin colors. the intention is not focus in a special subject. the concept was to remind that we all are equal for we all are born the same way as children of the Earth and we all will die the same way and come back to Her.

when I still don’t have an idea about what I want to paint, I usually feed my mind with pictures, videos, and music. usually my search doesn’t last too long. I’m very imaginative and sometimes just a single vision of patterns in the wings of a bird, beautiful draperies or an unusual sunset sky are enough to inspire me with colors and shapes. and when I want to put a group of figures in the picture, I first need to do some study until finding a good, harmonic composition. I go to my collection of reference pictures, open my Photoshop and start to pick pictures and position them until find a composition I really like. usually it’s when the real job starts and when more ideas arise. sometimes, the next step is to transfer the image in a very rough sketch to my sketchbook and start creating. other times, when I have a clear idea of what I want, I go right to the illustration board. the image is still blurred in my mind, so I’d better do some studies first.

in the sketchbook things start to change. first, I suddenly realize that the intertwined figures look better with their breasts. the initial idea begins to crumble. second, I begin to see branches coming out the arms and hair. the group of figures is now a big tree.

ok, we can use a big tree to represent structure, for example. differences structure the world, make it a most interesting and rich place. but now the figures have a genre, they are women. I’m afraid that my initial idea is now getting more and more dissolved.

now I don’t know what to do with a big tree which trunk is made of three women intertwined. but I love the idea, and I want to continue on. but it’s no longer a project for the Embracing the Differences exhibit. it’s something else I don’t know what is.

the word came to my mind all of a sudden: Tree of Life.

eureka!! what could be more appropriate for a tree of life than a tree made of women? I was in awe. almost immediately I started to sketch the figures on the board, using 2H and HB pencils.

little branches coming from fingers...

this is why I say that many times our creations don’t really belong to us. they seem to have a life of their own. no matter what we plan for them, in their way to completion they may end up turning out something totally different. we artists are just the channel.

I finished the penciling today, or at least what I call the “basics”. at the end of the process I’ll fix what I judge to be flaws and enhance the shadows using a softer pencil (usually 2B or even 4B, but nothing beyond that.)

now it’s time for the fun to start. in the next step I’ll create the abstractions and define the branches, leaves and the other elements I want the tree to have. I confess I am still not certain of what to put in the tree besides animals and birds. a Tree of Life is something big and deserves to be well thought about. let’s see what kind of insight I’ll be granted with in the next days.


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