Sometimes life is beautiful. There is a lot to see. There is a lot different skies at sunset, at dawn, in the middle of the day… and a lot of different trees- pines, and oaks, and sycamores. I make note of this because I’ve been painting skies and trees. And not a lot of different skies and trees. Pine trees and clouds at sunset.

So… evergreens. Some are up branches and some go down. And few are symmetrical like the construction paper cut outs from elementary school. Some look very wrong. Misshapen, asymmetrical- occasionally some shaped like letters of the alphabet… and all along highway 330 on my way down to work, they tend to get worse as you get lower.

Lately on that same drive I have seen skies with brilliant colors. Before daylight savings kicked in, I was catching some amazing sunrises. And now in the last few weeks I have seen spectacular sunsets on my drive home.

I look carefully at the edges of clouds… where sunlight bleeds through. Where light bounces off. I notice the wispy bits breaking off and the weight given by shadows… how dark the middles of the heaviest clouds can get. There are sharp lines and soft smudges… I note the blush of pink, the dirty yellow smears and where the darker greys tapers off and blends. I look for the pure white and the reds and oranges… and how the background fades into a dark rich blue.

And in the trees and the earth I often note how the ridges far off in the distant are tinted blue and how the density of air blurs the details in the distance. I note how the foreground is often darker, as the trees are darker than the sky. And how the tangle of branches and needles form patterns… how the groups of trees cluster, and how some trunks are split… and every here and there there is a great snag reaching up with bare branches.

The interesting thing is that I have opted to cheat a bit when I paint. When I replicated the colors of the skies that I see at sunset, they come off as too spectacular and too bold. When I give the clouds shapes that I have seen, they tend to look strange and staged. And I stay away from the dirty yellow. And if I were to add in some of the oddly shaped trees that I have seen it would look wrong. So the trees are slightly more symmetrical than reality. The sky, more muted and less bold. And the clouds… slightly more regular. Trees more triangular than trees. Clouds, neater and neatly arranged. Light moving in predictable directions. Color, more expected than shocking. It is beautiful. Muted. Balanced. It has a rhythm and composition that works… a sense of calm that I like.

Maybe one day I will have the courage to paint it the way I see it… rather than some duller representation of beauty that I seem to need.

With all of life’s beauty, and the shocking boldness of a fall sunset- well, you have to remember that sunsets are a small part of the day. You get one every day, even if you don’t see it… it is there. But there is a lot more to life, and some of it isn’t so nice.


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