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The above painting is of a huge black walnut tree that sits at the top of the long driveway where I painted last summer. It towers! All the branches, pictured here (even the upright one on the right), are the same tree. I stood off to the side and took the reference photo for this painting, looking upward.ย  There are branches that have broken off and branches that seem strong and full of life. Makes me wonder what this tree has been through and the changes to the surroundings while it stood. I hope to try a portrait of the entire tree in a vertical format some time in the future.

Painted on crumpled and toned masa paper. You can learn how to do this from a previous post here.



  1. Oh Leslie, If only it could talk. TO tell us of the changes it’s seen since it was a weak sapling grown to present day. I love your masa paper watercolour, you can see the life and beauty of the Walnut Tree as it majestically towers and spreads it’s many branches. Beautiful, simply beautiful. Thank you for brightening my day…xPenx

    • I just read a friend of mine’s first novel. In the book, the trees spoke. Only certain people had the capacity to hear them, though. I thought how true that was in real life. I would believe that you, dear Pen, can hear them. Your writing reflects great sensitivity. Thank you for this lovely comment.

    • Sandrine Pelissier
    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 11:51 am
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    • Reply

    This is a great painting! I love how you used the crumbled masa paper, but this is not obvious on the final result, and it goes perfectly well with the subject.
    I also love the tones on the branches, you have certainly a talent with color!, your shade areas are always luminous.

    • I am having success with the bark of trees, I think, because of the effects of the paper. I can lay my washes on and after they are dry, lift some areas which gives that bark texture. I painted each trunk or branch with halloween orange, one at a time. Before that wash was dry, I went in on the shaded side with sepia and june bug and allowed the water to carry it. That gave the shaded side of the trunk, but each trunk has halloween orange, first. That is what gives that glow to one side. Thank you, Sandrine! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I like each painting more as you experiment with this textured paper!

    • Am I lucky or what? I found a surface I can’t get enough of! Thanks, Sis!

  3. Great real feel with the leaves and their edges Leslie!! Happy Spring 2011 to you too ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Thank you, Rachana! Getting colder tonite, though. They even said the “S” thing tonite on the weather report (shhhhhh maybe it will not come over the week end like they think). Happy Spring!

  4. The texture of the paper works well to create the illusion of the smaller branches.

    • You are so right. That is why I did not even try to drybrush them in with a liner. Love this paper! Thank you, Chris.

  5. Love the way you’ve managed to paint such variegation in all of those leaves… I’d love to see the complete tree too when it’s done…

    • When I get to that painting, I will post it, Brian. The leaves were so much less frustrating to paint on this paper. Perhaps it is just that I have found a surface that can tolerate the way I paint? Thank you!

  6. The painting looks so real – what great texture the masa helps to give. Your vantage point is similar to one I have with a huge, old Maple. I, too, wonder what is recorded in its rings of life.

    • P.S., do people end up with black fingertips when they pick those walnuts for roasting?

      • My Grandmother had a black walnut tree and she would gather the hulled nuts and place them on the cement strips of her driveway. She would then drive over them to crack and squish the green hulls. Then she would diligently peel away the covering, dry the nuts and she cooked with them and we ate them. Yes her hands and ours were terribly stained. We used something that took it right off. She knew all the tricks. It was probably some kind of harsh laundry soap.
        Thank you, Amy! Hug that Maple for me!

  7. This is a wonderful painting, Leslie. The Masa really captures the texture of the tree trunk and provides a lovely background. I am inspired and in awe of these giant trees. They speak to me of life, experience and struggle. Very well done!

    • Thank you, Linda. I agree with you. …and you can always tell them from the others.

  8. Leslie, this is FABULOUS !! All these greens! such harmony with all the browns ! You are so patient !
    “Penpusherpen”: I used to have the same thought , until one day I wondered: “may be the tree is speaking to me, and may be it is I would not listen??”

    • Thank you, Isabelle. You noticed the time it may have taken to paint this. I painted this in sessions, for sure, so that I would not lose my patience. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Fantastic detail here. It cant have been easy
    Beautiful painting this one

    • It did take a bit of time to paint this one. Thank you, Richard! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I love trees and for me a tree is similar to a family of people full of life. Your work on masa is just adorable!The texture is intriguing..

  11. Doing honour to the life of a tree is so cool. Every notch and break records an event – Even knowing what it is called is wonderful. Thanks for lifting my gaze this morning.

    • I really like painting the trees. I don’t really know why. They all look so different even when the same. Does that make sense? Thank you, Stephen!

  12. A masterpiece, Leslie! A real masterpiece. I don’t have enough words to describe how much I love this painting. Romantic realism! – is this a term? Your masa technique is perfect to describe the aged bark and the lace of small branches against the sky. Magnificent!

    • Wow, thank you, Alex. The masa does work well with bark and leaves. I work more patiently on it, also. Thank you for making my day!
      Hope you are having a great time with family!

  13. Oh Leslie, it’s beautiful. Just beautiful. I love the texture and color that you’ve achieved on the branches. This paper suits you wonderfully!

    • Thank you, Karen. I have had to step away from masa for a few projects but really am going to go running back to it as soon as I can! I so enjoy it.

  14. Looks like a lot of work has gone into this beautiful painting Leslie – and the close up is a divine myriad of colour! Have you ever thought of making small demo films of your techniques? I for one would like to see you at your work ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Oh would I love to make demo films but do not have a camera for that and would not even know how to go about it. Really technically challenged over here. But thank you because that would be a blast. I haven’t even figured out how to do a slide “thingy”, yet, like you do. I think those are great and Sandrine: has done some really awesome ones.
      Me at my work is really slow…painstakingly so. Thank you for your encouragement. Hope I can someday. Yes, this painting took more time than most that I do because it involved lifting, also.

  15. Oh wow! Painting trees on the masa paper is awesome! Well….it is awesome because of your talent first, Leslie, but the little lines from the crumbled paper really bring this tree to life is what I meant. This tree is grand and beautiful. I’m looking forward to seeing you do the entire tree!

    • Painting trees on masa is the best. This paper lends itself to them I think, Debbie. There is some planning and experimenting due to the color already there, but once I figure that out I’m off and at it! At some point I hope to do a tall narrow vertical of this tree. Oh, for more time. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you, Debbie.

  16. Beautiful, Leslie – let’s face it you are good!! And you’ve got a lot of patience. I love the effect you are getting on your paper – it looks like twigs. And the colors in the leaves and the bark brings this tree to life.
    Well done!

    • That twig look didn’t really appear until I washed some of that light blue in fo the background. This paper is teaching me to look for those things I can save and appreciate as I paint. It is kind of like starting with a vision and then being willing to change the final image to fit the paper and the medium. I kind of like that exploratory process. Thank you for such a nice comment, Jan!

  17. It amazes me how you are able to get such perfect little areas of light and shadow on every single branch! I have always found trees to be very difficult and I usually avoid them. You jump in there with both feet and make them your own! It is a wonderful painting, Leslie!

    • For a long time my trees just looked like silhouettes against the background. One day I decided to paint areas with juicy wet washes and then feed in the darker colors, wet-in-wet, from the shadowed side of the tree. The water only carries it so far around the trunk and into the other color that way. This leaves the two-tone or three -tone look that I get. I then go back in and lift out areas. With this masa paper, I get the added textured effect. I have to give that credit to the paper. Thank you for such a wonderful comment, Beth. You made my day! ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. A very nice tree! The masa paper technique gives a very unique feel to it.

    • That paper takes the brush right out of my hand and shows it what it can do. Sometimes I get to thinking the mediums and supports we choose teach us as much as our diligence and practice. Thank you, Binky!

  19. Ooooh, another beauty. I’m loving these masa paper pieces!!!!

    • Thank you! Have to break away from them for a bit but will come back to it every chance I get.

  20. I love everything about this painting… It’s so beautiful.

  21. This is very good! World class in fact. Lucian Freud would be proud to have done this.

    • Now I’m blushing. Thank you for that, Jay. …and thank you for introducing me to Lucian Freud.

  22. Lovely, Leslie. You just might get me to try my hand again …

  23. Your trees are wonderful and the walnut is a perfect example. We had these around our house and I love black walnuts, but I hate the stains and hulls. But black walnut ice cream… YUMMY!

    • Mmmmmm. Black walnut ice cream sounds so good, Ryan! The clean up from these trees takes time. I have never had one in my yard, but along a pasture fence and always had to keep the walnuts that dropped picked up because I didn’t want the horses nibbling on them or stepping on them and bruising the soles of their feet. Thanks for the comment!

  24. The way the light bounces off branches showing the detail of the bark is stunning. I’m really interested in the way you choose an aspect of the tree and focus on a world within a world. It’s something I’ve found interesting for many years. It would also take many years for me to produce something as wonderful as this. Great technique Leslie.

    • I think you would be surprised, Keith. The masa helps you create. I think this would look like one of my other trees without the masa. The paper also takes the water and the pigment different than just on watercolor paper. I like your thinking about a tree within a tree. This one does look like that. I took many photos of this particular tree as I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do with it. Thank you, Keith. Hope you are feeling better with every day!

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