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century tree

In my recent composition class, I gave an assignment asking the artists to create a tree like no tree they had ever seen before and include a number and a word or words. There were so many interesting paintings that came from this assignment. You can see some of them on the Student Page here.

The above tree is my rendition. It is a combination of watercolor, ink, rice paper collage and collage. The entire background was created, first, last year. I had wanted to do an abstract painting that resembled bark and had torn pieces of fibered rice paper and glued them to the surface using a two parts acrylic matte medium, one part water glue. I then painted the bark-like forms with browns siennas and olive greens. I pulled this bark-like thing out of my stow-aways (unfinished things) and drew a humongous trunk of a tree and reaching branches on it using waterproof ink, which I spritzed with water, before it dried. It caused the ink to spread and follow various fibers and the edges of the torn rice papers, enhancing the bark-like look and feel. I let that dry overnight. I then painted into the tree trunk with darker tones of siennas and greens and browns and let that dry overnight. I found the word “Major” running across the trunk and darkened the rambling letters with ink. You might make it out if you study it carefully. The letters are wiggly and ghost-like starting with an “M” at the base of the trunk on the left and the tails of the “R” end at the figure’s leg on the right. I added the ghost-like figure, next.  May I mention that this became all-consuming as I created and I enjoyed every minute of the time it took to ramble around this tree? There is a huge figure of a woman kneeling, made up of the left side of the trunk and spreading arms of two of the large branches. Her nipples are quite distinct as knotholes on that side. It is as though her head is tossed back and she is rejoicing in the light of day. Enlarge the piece, stand back and look for her. You may see her, too!

I found words in a magazine that I wanted to include in my tree. There are four eyes in this tree and a bird (colored black like a silhouette). Can you find them? I chose blue and gray citra solv papers to cut the leaves from and glued them on. I wanted them to have a shimmering effect. I don’t know that I achieved that, but tried. I so enjoyed working on this and wish every painting I ever created was this much fun. I felt like the imagery was giving back every bit as much as I gave to it as it changed on the surface of the paper. By far, the most enjoyable mixed media I have ever worked on.


  1. Stunning both in concept and execution. You continue to amaze….!!

  2. Wow, magical tree! Beautiful color, too. And your students are turning out some excellent work!

  3. Awesome piece! I enjoyed seeking and finding all the little images within the image. Such a beautiful representation of the spiritual qualities of a tree, and how it serves and connects with so many other life forms!

    • The tree began to have a living essence of its own and it amazed me. I think we practice for just these moments, as artists. Really liked your dragon, Anne! Thank you for the comment.

  4. very creative~

  5. Very interesting assignment, the end result is beautiful!

    • Thank you, Padmaja. I have always admired your ability to branch out and explore a story, especially with some of your portraiture you do. This was fun to create with a bit of abandon.

    • Inese Poga Art Gallery
    • Posted April 6, 2015 at 12:48 am
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    Amazing! I am a bit tired, but I will check for eyes when I get more time. Very interesting project!

  6. Fabulous piece

    • This means a lot, coming from you, kestralart. You are always exploring interesting possibilities. Thank you!

      • Hi Leslie
        You flatter me.
        You do this for real and teach others. I only dabble. I’d be pretty happy to have time to imitate some of your techniques let alone innovate. But your appreciation is always welcome and in my turn I always learn something from your posts.
        Best wishes

  7. Love this piece, Leslie. You made a beautiful tree trunk, that has so many interesting things hiding in it. I keep staring at something that looks like a fish with its mouth open and an eye. The figures, eyes, words and numbers along with all the colors and textures really make this a magnificent mixed media work of art.

    • That is so cool that you found something in it that I had not seen, Carol. Thank you!

  8. Wonderful and fascinating. So much to see and I just want to reach out and touch all that texture. Thank you for sharing.

    • It is funny that you mention that. I was constantly touching the surface after each layer would dry, Susan. This piece became quite thick through the process. Thank you!

  9. Wonderful. So intriguing. Love hidden things.

    • Me too. I don’t create something like this very often. Most of the time, when I venture out this way, I get miserably tangled up. When it works out, I actually learn a lot. Thank you, Gretchen.

  10. And I see a fist, just above the woman on the left…. such fun to look at and it must have been fun to make!

    • I see the fist, now, too! Thank you for pointing that out. What fun! It was fun to make. This is when the painting kind of starts telling me where to go.

  11. Both process and image are very organic here.

    • Thank you, Al. I so like to let the water and the ink and the color do its thing when I work with torn rice papers. Maybe the organic partially comes from that, too, and not just the subject.

      • I think the merger of process and subject matter could lead to an inspired image as you have shown. Around here, we are looking for a break from the rain!

      • Oh my goodness, Al, your river is going to grow again! It has been raining almost non-stop up here and it flows towards you!

  12. Amazing tree and much fun to create and paint

  13. Great creativity!

  14. I really like this. At first it seems so abstract and then the tree and figure become apparent. I had fun looking for everything you put into it.

  15. This really reminds me of the African Baobab trees of my youth. You and your class have such wild imaginations – it’s good knowing you got such a kick out of doing this, you were obviously ‘in the flow’.

    • Yes, kind of Baobab-like. I find trees with massive trunks fascinating. Thank you for that about imagination, June!

  16. Brilliant Leslie! I love it!

  17. Waoo,magical painting! Love it dear Leslie❤️

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By The Giant Blue | Leslie White on 27 Mar 2016 at 5:41 pm

    […] The above painting was created for an assignment I gave for my composition class. I asked them to create a flower like they have never seen before and ad a number and word or letters. It was designed to get them ready for our watercolor and collage class that began last week. I designed my flower from Fuschia and added things and decided to go giant with it. I need to do more of this. Those of you who follow my site might remember we had an assignment last year that was to create a tree like you have never seen before. You can view that here. […]

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