Last year I featured a painting of trees by Maureen Spinale that just blew me away. (See that painting and what I wrote here.) Since then, I’ve seen more and more of her paintings, and each piece takes my breath away. A lover of trees myself, I definitely wanted Maureen Spinale as a guest blogger. And here she is!
Before Maureen takes over, here’s an example of the glowing work she does.
And here’s a wee bit of info about this artist.
Maureen Spinale Bio
Maureen Spinale, a true Bostonian, wife, mother, grandmother and retired social worker, who became a pastel artist later in life. Her work is inspired by nature, with a focus on trees, their complexity, and how the light and color affect them. Juried into many exhibits, nationally and internationally, she has received numerous awards. Maureen is a Signature Member of the Pastel Society of America, IAPS Master Circle, Signature Member of Pastel Painters Society of Cape Cod, and Gallery Artist at South Shore Art Center. Check out her website to read and see more.
And so, let me not hold up the works any longer. Heeeeeere’s Maureen Spinale!
Maureen Spinale Paints The Guardians Of The Earth
I believe I was a tree in another life, reaching up to the heavens.
I am drawn to these guardians of the earth.
My father was from the south, so, as children, my brother and I spent summers fishing on the bay and swimming in the creek in the deep Alabama woods.
I remember feelings of pure joy as we explored the forest.
Today, as a woman, walking among Hemlocks, Aspens, Pines, and Birches brings healing and peace to my soul. As a painter, I’m drawn to the light on the edges of a trunk, the bark wearing its scars of long battles with the elements, the rhythm of the branches and the movement and sound of the wind. The strength and character of each tree stirs me up inside.
I began my journey back into art after early retirement from Clinical Social Work.
My first class was a botanical art course at the Horticultural Society of Boston. I loved the detailed renderings, and realized I hadn’t forgotten how to draw. Now I’m less concerned with detail and concentrating more on simplicity. I found that watercolor and I did not mix well so I signed up for a class on painting with pastels. It took a bit of courage walking into that class, as I knew nothing about pastels. I did remember drawing with craypas when I was in elementary school, but this was not craypas!
Slowly I began to learn about the wonders of pastel. We painted en plein air often. I loved painting the landscape and learning how to work with the pastel medium. I guess you could say I was hooked.
The more I painted, the more trees became my subject. I identified with them, for the feelings they represent. I often ask them, “How long have you been here?” “What have you seen?” “Did you struggle much?” “What storms did you weather and who have you protected?” “Are you reaching up to Heaven?” “What seeds have you planted?” “Who have you fed?” I also say, “I know you will go on much longer than me and I am glad for our earth that you will.” These thoughts go through my head when I’m among trees.
In my direct observation of a tree’s bark and limbs and the way trees stand on the forest ground, that is the way they tell me about their life. My work shows the scars and the tangled and fallen branches It also reveals the glory in the height of some and the many colors in their bark, like tapestries.
I take zillions of photos of trees, forests, woodlands, always studying how the light hits the trunks and branches at different times of the day. It’s how I develop my paintings. I dream a lot too, when I’m beginning a new painting, about the feeling of it. If I am unfamiliar with a particular subject, I will go back many times to study it.
I bring tree limbs, pieces of bark, and fallen branches into the studio to study, to keep near me, for answers.
I also have books I refer to. One in particular is Drawing Trees by Stanley Maltzman (see below for a link to this book).
In the beginning of my landscape work, I avoided color. Not until my time spent at Muir woods and Yosemite was I really able to see and feel the joy of color and light. The sight and color of the Aspens took my breath away. I have been painting Aspens ever since. I no longer have the fear of color. Being there, among the great giants, was an experience I will never forget. It changed me, it changed the way I painted. I am grateful to the trees – I asked and they answered back.
During the winter, most of my work is from reference photos and notes of what I felt when I was on location. For me, it’s about the trees, the light, the structure, and complexity. It’s all so beautiful to me.
Aspens’ yellows are my favorite colors, followed by:
– the mahogany of a birch branch
– the darkest green of a pine
– the red orange of a maple in autumn
– the greens of moss on bark
– the reds on trunks after rain
– the purple of a trunk in shadow.
I strive to do more thumbnails. They help with simplifying and that’s especially key when painting a forest. When I’m photographing, I’m composing my paintings at the same time.
I print my photos in black and white – usually 8×10 in – cover them with acetate and mark out the big shapes with a marker so I can clearly see them.
I begin a tree in all different ways. I will sketch it out in charcoal, sometimes I will block them in with a Sharpie Magnum, or a Copic wide marker. Other times I will take a Terry Ludwig pastel and use the edge to mark out the edges of the tree, dragging the color into the bark in the underpainting. I’ve also drawn them in with ink using the dropper – it makes beautiful lines. So you see there’s all kinds of ways you can paint them.
Each painting has a different start. Many times I tone my paper with ink using a bright intense color. Color expresses the mood and the feeling of a place. I want to express that emotion in my work, a spiritual kinship with the woods.
At present, I work with pastels exclusively. A goal of mine is to experiment with oil. I work in the studio as much as I can and in some capacity each day, whether I’m painting, mounting paper, framing, underpainting, cleaning, or organizing.
My choice for pastel supports is usually UArt 400 or 500 grade. I mount my own paper on Crescent Perfect mount boards. I also use Rives BFK and Kitty Wallis, and Canson Mi-Teintes papers. The pastels I use most are Schmincke, Diane Townsend, Terry Ludwig, Sennelier, and Unison. Paper sizes I like are 14×24, 18×18, 15×15, 30×30, and 24x36in.
I’m so thankful for the wonderful teachers on my path, students who were so giving to me of their knowledge, and my first instructor, Donna Rossetti-Bailey, who is a cherished friend today. I still paint with some of that same group I started with 16 years ago. The loving support and encouragement from my husband and family, continues to nurture and inspire my painting journey.
I have always been inspired by George Inness, Charles Warren Eaton, John Henry Twachtman, Alexander Zavarin, A.T.Hubbard, and Isaac Levitan. Contemporary painters include Richard Schmid, Bonnie Posselli, Ann Templeton, Wolf Kahn, David Grossman, Forest Moses, Liz Haywood-Sullivan, Rick Stevens, Ken Elliot, Brian Rutenberg, Casey Klahn, Ed Chesnovitch, and David Lidbetter, just to name a few.
I’d like to close with a favorite excerpt of mine, from the book Wandering by Hermann Hesse. It pretty much sums up my love affair with trees.
“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits that have stolen away out of some weakness, but great solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build their own form, to represent themselves.
Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down, it reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured.”
Well, wow. I could spend soooo much time in among those trees, those guardians of the earth. I am moved by so many of these pastels by Maureen Spinale.
How about you? What’s the main WOW for you? We would both love to know so please leave a comment.
And that’s it for this week.
Until next time,