15-Day Personal Challenge – Day 1, Trees


It seems one way that I could improve my landscape paintings is to concentrate small studies on individual landscape subjects, so I decided to challenge myself 15 days at a time devoted to one subject.  I’ll still paint full scenes in larger sizes, but this exercise will help as a concentrated effort.  I probably should extend the 15 day to a 30 day challenge, but we’ll see how it goes.

The first 15-day challenge begins with Trees a subject that I’ve wanted to work on for a long time.

Day 1 is Poplar Trees (5×7) oil pastel on Strathmore paper – close-up view.  I love the linear look as these trees grace the land with their presence.  If you saw the original post, I realized that my camera was incorrectly set and values, colors, etc. were all off – not good to rush when taking the photograph.

Poplar Tree, Day 1

Poplar Tree, Day 1

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About Mary

Oil Pastelist
This entry was posted in Challenges: Subject Matter Studies, Trees and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to 15-Day Personal Challenge – Day 1, Trees

  1. Pingback: A tree for Mary | outside authority

  2. Great idea, interesting post, Mary. Look forward to seeing the drawings.

    • Mary says:

      Thank you very Cara – I’m glad you are enjoying the project. It’s helping me think through form, branch structure and color choices.

  3. i love this personal challenge! i’m in quito w/friends; tomorrow heading home and about to do a lot of travel – but i am going to try to draw a tree every day in your honor – even if it’s a five-minute scribble.. will try to post those every so often in your honor!

    • Mary says:

      Hi Z! Thanks so much for your encouragement – close-up paintings of trees are a real challenge for me, so this exercise has been good. Realistic greens and gray greens w/oil pastels are difficult to achieve – but as I go through the variety of trees I working on blending the non-traditional colors to get something this satisfactory. Not totally there yet though. Looking forward to your tree drawings, which if memory serves me right – prior tree drawings of yours are spectacular!

  4. Painting for Joy says:

    Wow Mary! You’ve been very busy this week! Enjoying your landscape studies with the poplar trees. I can see wonderful form in these two!

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Rhonda! Almost two weeks went by before I could devote time to paint, so it’s great getting into these exercises – feels great.

  5. lesliepaints says:

    I like this study!

  6. aFrankAngle says:

    Your idea to include two is perfect! On closer look, great detail.

  7. M-R says:

    WONDERFUL poplars, Mary ! – even if rendered a bit strange by not having a sky behind ’em. 🙂

  8. Francesca says:

    What a great idea, Mary! I love this. It looks like a photograph printed on canvas paper. Lovely!

  9. I love these Mary. I could do with joining in the exercise. Look forward to seeing some Leylandi (?)

    • Mary says:

      Thank you so much! I hope you consider joining me in the exercise – would love to see your work. Ah yes, Leylands are beautiful trees, we had a lovely Cypress Leyland once – they are graceful specimens. Will have to give it some consideration. I only slotted 15 days, whereas I could have easily done 30 with trees.

  10. You are an inspiration to create our own challenges. What you are doing can be applied to any other craft. I give myself small challenges with my writing, too. It seems to me that you have an edge, being already so skilled. Good luck.

    • Mary says:

      Thank you Evelyne for your beautiful comment and compliment – means a lot. There are so many similarities between painting and writing.

  11. Your idea of 15 days or more challenge is a brilliant one Mary! It will benefit you greatly, especially when it comes to refining your technical skills. As I mentioned before, I always warm up before I start sketching away and your approach is similar to that, the more you do the better it will get. Remember the “muscle memory”, now that will develop so quickly by these exercises that when it comes the time to paint a full scene will flow out of your hand smoothly and guide your brush strokes with ease and precision. Oil is a wonderful medium and I like how much attention you paying to details and how you approach certain aspects of it.Your fist study of trees looks lovely and I’m looking forward to the next 14 days (or more) to see all your other studies!

    • Mary says:

      Great comments Eva. Oil pastels are a little different than regular oil paints because they come in stick form. I end up breaking off pieces of the stick to paint with, using my fingers or other tools like clay shapers and tortiliums to move the oil pastel around on the surface. It’s such a different medium, in that it’s not fluid even though it’s sticky-wet and never dries. Hope that makes sense.

      Really like your thoughts on the challenges – exactly w/re to your comment on “remember the muscle memory” you are spot on and that is my goal – I do want the tree to flow out of my hand freely and let the colors what I concentrate on rather than form. So I’m hoping this has some legs and staying power for my work going forward.

  12. A really great idea for all of us Mary-breaking down and strengthening particular elements that we often paint. Lovely poplars!

  13. Don says:

    They really look good, Mary. We have two which I can see from our front garden, and when the sun sets they become even more pronounced.

  14. Beautiful, graceful twin trees! Happy Tuesday, Mary! 🙂

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Marina so much – appreciate it. Happy Tuesday to you as well and hope you are having a wonderful week. I’m still playing catch-up and hoping to accomplish a lot today.

  15. I’m sure it will be an interesting exercise! 15 days sound plenty to me – if you have extended periods there may be a danger of skewing your work? A bit like raising a heavy weight on chocks, it’s probably better to lift each corner a little at a time so the whole is never too out of level?
    When i have some spare time (not often!), I will take a simple object to photograph and light, maybe I’ll play with the depth of field or light direction, just to give me a little more intuition when I’m out and about and ‘doing my thing’. Fundamentally, it also helps me to ‘see’ what I’m looking at.

    • Mary says:

      Great comment Stephen – really spot-on points. The challenge for me with oil pastels is achieving sometimes delicate and/or purposeful strokes and in the case of trees, form. The Challenge with OPs is laying wet paint over wet paint, that’s not really fluid, but sticky – which then has me thinking more about how to apply the paint, than the subject itself. Also, oil pastels come in pre-made colors that aren’t ideal especially when painting nature themes – so I can mix a bit before the surface paint turns to mud. The exercise will allow me to think about each of these aspects as they relate to a particular subject (w/trees there are so many specimens that I won’t be at a loss) instead of worrying about the whole scene.

      Really appreciated receiving your thoughts.

      I love how you stated giving yourself “a little more intuition” – exactly, a bit of knowledge and feel for the subject when I painted it again.

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