Going out on a limb

Out On A Limb

In high school I was a doodler. A doodler of trees, covering every notebook and book cover. I would draw a large trunk and large number of branches. I certainly didn’t think much about it.

For me, high school was a time of anxiety, with the usual stress of fitting in, tests, boredom, boys, and waiting for life to happen. I feel like this might align with my current fixation on painting trees. To look at this painting compositionally, it may not seem like I was “going out on a limb,” with a big branch, some leaves, a mountain range in the distance, but maybe this is just another response to my current anxiety. I read somewhere that themes of nature can create calm in a stressful environment. If this is the case, maybe a big branch feels like a bit of support.

For quite a while I have been working on line drawings and silhouettes of dried weeds, hoping to one day incorporate them successfully into a painting. I have made a number of attempts at weaving these elements into a composition. For some paintings I think it worked pretty well and some not so much. To make the combination successful, the drawing and painting need to also flow with the lines, color and busy surface of the patterned paper. In this piece, the branch is meant to be representational and strong, while the weeds and leaves are intentionally transparent and wispy. It’s a big contrast to have a large, opaque branch at the top with thin and see-through areas at the bottom. By including more elements to the picture plane, it creates more opportunity, as well as more potential for disaster. My version of “going out on a limb.”

In the end, I think this painting represents a reasonably successful amalgamation of the pieces coming together, painting, line drawings, and patterned paper.

Could the limb be interpreted as a looming threat or is it sheltering what’s below? If my history is an indication, it is an exercise in calming anxiety.