Maureen Spinale, "Joy, Peace & Hope," pastel painted on UArt 400, 18x18 in. I was just so taken by the light in this stand of Aspens, made me thankful to be among them.

Maureen Spinale: Painter Of Trees, Guardians of the Earth

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.

Maureen Spinale, "Bold and Beautiful," pastel, 18x18 in.

Maureen Spinale, “Bold and Beautiful,” pastel, 18×18 in.

 

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.

 

Maureen Spinale, "First Glance," pastel, 6x8 in. Sold. Aspens in Yosemite.

Maureen Spinale, “First Glance,” pastel, 6×8 in. Sold. Aspens in Yosemite.

 

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.

 

Maureen Spinale, "Dimming of the Day," Ludwig and Unison pastels over black ink and charcoal on UART 400 grade, 24x12 in. I was captivated by the bark, the moss, the scars, and how they stood together nestled in snow.

Maureen Spinale, “Dimming of the Day,” Ludwig and Unison pastels over black ink and charcoal on UART 400 grade, 24×12 in. I was captivated by the bark, the moss, the scars, and how they stood together nestled in snow.

 

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.

 

Maureen Spinale, "A day at World’s End," 2009, pastel, 10x10 in. Sold

Maureen Spinale, “A day at World’s End,” 2009, pastel, 10×10 in. Sold

 

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.

 

Maureen Spinale, "Dance with Me," Terry Ludwig, and a variety of other brands of pastels on UART, 9x18 in.

Maureen Spinale, “Dance with Me,” Terry Ludwig and a variety of other brands of pastels on UART, 9×18 in.

 

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).

 

Maureen Spinale, "Timber," Ludwig, Schmincke, Unison pastel on BFK Rives paper, 11x15 in. This painting is of the trees in back of my framers shop. It was a damp day and the trees had this reddish cast to them.

Maureen Spinale, “Timber,” Ludwig, Schmincke, Unison pastel on BFK Rives paper, 11×15 in. This painting is of the trees in back of my framers shop. It was a damp day and the trees had this reddish cast to them.

 

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.

 

Maureen Spinale, "A Thousand Pieces of Gold," pastel, 15x15 in. Sold. A number of my paintings, mostly of the Aspens, are from my time in Yosemite. It was a life changing experience being there among the Aspens, Giant Sequoias, and pines. It changed the way i paint. This painting came about as we were heading down one of the mountain roads, and came across a stand of Aspens. A glorious site.

Maureen Spinale, “A Thousand Pieces of Gold,” pastel, 15×15 in. Sold. A number of my paintings, mostly of the Aspens, are from my time in Yosemite. It was a life changing experience being there among the Aspens, Giant Sequoias, and pines. It changed the way i paint. This painting came about as we were heading down one of the mountain roads, and came across a stand of Aspens. A glorious site.

 

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.

 

Maureen Spinale, "A River Runs Through It," pastel on amber toned Canson Mi-Teintes, 29x23 in. I loved how the trees were growing together. I wasn’t sure what was in the background, so I thought a river would be nice rambling through the trees.

Maureen Spinale, “A River Runs Through It,” pastel on amber toned Canson Mi-Teintes, 29×23 in. I loved how the trees were growing together. I wasn’t sure what was in the background, so I thought a river would be nice rambling through the trees.

 

Maureen Spinale: My reference photo used for the placement of the trees in "A River Runs Through It."

My reference photo used for the placement of the trees in “A River Runs Through It.”

 

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.

 

Maureen Spinale, "Joy, Peace & Hope," pastel painted on UArt 400, 18x18 in. I was just so taken by the light in this stand of Aspens, made me thankful to be among them.

Maureen Spinale, “Joy, Peace & Hope,” pastel painted on UArt 400, 18×18 in. I was just so taken by the light in this stand of Aspens, made me thankful to be among them.

 

Maureen Spinale, initial underpainting for "Joy, Peace & Hope."

Maureen Spinale, initial underpainting for “Joy, Peace & Hope.”

 

Maureen Spinale, underpainting with pastel added - "Joy, Peace & Hope."

Maureen Spinale, underpainting with pastel added – “Joy, Peace & Hope.”

 

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.

 

Maureen Spinale, "October," Schmincke, Townsend, Sennelier pastel painted on UArt 400 over ink and black marker, 18x18 in.

Maureen Spinale, “October,” Schmincke, Townsend, Sennelier pastel painted on UArt 400 over ink and black marker, 18×18 in.

 

Maureen Spinale, underpainting in ink and marker for "October."

Maureen Spinale, underpainting in ink and marker for “October.”

 

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.

 

Maureen Spinale, "Forest Bathing," pastel on gatorboard primed with gesso and toned with ink, 18 x18 in. This woodland painting was inspired by the pattern of the trees and the back lighting.

Maureen Spinale, “Forest Bathing,” pastel on gatorboard primed with gesso and toned with ink, 18 x18 in. This woodland painting was inspired by the pattern of the trees and the back lighting.

 

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.”

 

Maureen Spinale, "Dancing in the Light," pastel painted over underpainting of FW inks on Uart 400, 24x36 in. Found another stand of Aspens on a glorious day in Yosemite.

Maureen Spinale, “Dancing in the Light,” pastel painted over underpainting of FW inks on Uart 400, 24×36 in. Found another stand of Aspens on a glorious day in Yosemite.

 

~~~~~

 

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,

~ Gail

 

28 thoughts on “Maureen Spinale: Painter Of Trees, Guardians of the Earth

  1. Elaine Benevides

    Gail! A blog about trees! Maureen’s blog is an inspiration to me with the many beautiful trees she’s painted and, me, just starting on my first one (first one since formal coaching lessons with you). I did my six color studies, by the way, and am now wondering if three weeks is too long to wait 😔

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Yes!! I was thinking of you Elaine as I put Maureen’s guest post together.
      Good for you getting colour studies done. Feel free to email me if you want to meet earlier 🙂

      Reply
  2. Mary-Anne Boudreau

    WOW indeed! I was lost and becalmed in the forest just reading her blog and loving her paintings. Thank you for introducing us to Maureen. I also talk to trees, respect them, admire them and yes, love to hug the old ones. Weird eh?

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Mary-Anne, glad to discover another tree-lover. Not weird at all. I think if we all loved and respected trees, the world would be a better place 🙂
      Happy to have introduced you to the beautiful work of Maureen Spinale.

      Reply
  3. Susana

    Thanks Gail for having Maureen as a guest blogger. Very inspiring, simply expressing my thoughts and views on trees. Live next door to a forrest and have like her been fascinated by trees myself. It doesn’t seem so complicated to go into painting pastels with trees now after her presentation. I am very grateful for all your search and presentations of other pastel painters on your blog.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Hi Susana, it’s wonderful to hear that reading and seeing Maureen’s work has inspired you to try painting the trees next door!
      I’m glad you enjoy seeing and reading the words of the monthly guest bloggers. I am delighted to showcase them here.

      Reply
  4. ChrisD

    The light in these paintings is very powerful, and of course the trees and their trunks are beautiful too. I am always interested in how painters start their pastels off, such as their underpaintings/base colours and materials; haven’t tried acrylic inks yet, though. Maybe on a white surface, like white Colorfix or even just watercolour paper? Sometimes I find the techniques even more fascinating than the final picture. I can’t pick a favourite from Maureen’s works, each has its own very engaging qualities!

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Chris I understand your dilemma – all the pieces are moving and powerful.
      I’m glad Maureen included a few of her starts as yes, it’s always fascinating to see how a piece begins. Let us know if you have a go with acrylic inks!!

      Reply
  5. Marie

    I discovered the gloriousness of trees late in my life. Maureen Spinale’s wonderful paintings make me want to paint more of them! I love the way she paints them and the relationships they have with each other. Fascinating work. Thanks for featuring her on your blog, Gail. Thanks, Maureen, for sharing your feelings about trees and some of your process.

    Reply
  6. iris devadason

    I LOVE trees too, so I love all these .
    In ‘The River Runs Through’ I love the blue tints for the branches……….very novel.
    I’ll be re-reading all again.
    I have done trees often in acrylics and oils and now lately in pastels too.
    I too ascribe a personality for each tree!
    Iris

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Iris, love that you pointed out the blue tints in ‘A River Runs Through.’
      There’s lots here to come back to isn’t there?
      Look forward to seeing your trees in the Facebook group!

      Reply
  7. Karole Nicholson

    Have seen many of Maureen’s pastel paintings of trees lately so I welcomed hearing about her process and seeing all of these color-filled tree themed works. Having met Maureen, she is reflective of her work … bright, positive, colorful. Thanks from a fellow tree lover.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Hi Karole, like you, I have been seeing a number of Marueen’s work. Having them all together here, interspersed with her words, is pretty awe-inspiring. You can see the personality of the person in the paintings I think. Look forward to meeting her one of these days 🙂

      Reply
  8. Ken Elliott

    Thank you, Maureen for your insights and the captivating works accompaning your article. I caught myself asking, “How did she do that so elegantly?” It appears that the answer is you put your heart into them.

    Just beautiful!

    Reply
  9. Andrea Doty

    I became acqainted with Mareen a decade ago when we were both privileged to be taught by master pastelist Donna Rosetti-Bailey in Marshfield, MA, and am thrilled to see her talent featured here. I’m also grateful that you showed us much of her process, and those of other wonderful pastelists. I am so happy to have found your blog site!

    Reply
  10. Cecelia Kuskie

    Wow. It’s nice to see such beautiful works and hear from so many tree lovers!!! Those trees feel so happy that they have been recognized and honored. The word that comes to mind for me is luminescent. Maureen is a master of the light. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Maureen spinale

      Thank you, Casey
      I’m so grateful to have been able to study under you, in two exciting workshops on color. Your teachings have inspired me , to experiment, let go of control, and be fearless in my use of color.

      Reply

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