Thursday, September 1, 2016

30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge, September 2016, Day #1: Leaves on the World Tree: The Albanian Olive Study

Today's blog actually begins with a dream I had back in June, so if you wish to read it, I've included it.  If not, you're welcome to scroll down to the pictures.

Tuesday 6.7.16

Last night I dreamed that I was at a reunion/ conference. I'd just finished taking an enameling workshop when we took a break for lunch.

In the cafeteria, I ran into my old boyfriend and the girl he dated after me, but we were all our current ages, with our current lives, so she and I were still close through the miracle of fb and I loved reading about her family and theatre adventures.

But we were both curious about him because he's not on fb and neither of us expected him to be here.
But he didn't talk about his present at all, he just reminisced about our combined college past and favorite performances by all three of us.

The subject turned to the first time they saw me on stage, climbing through a chair, and distinctly thinking I was 'interesting'. I was embarrassed and turned the conversation back to their own performances because they were both incredible actors, where I am not really an actor at all.
Then the conversation drifted to the present via the conference, and I showed them the four pieces I'd just made in enameling. One of the old ornery theatre professors had taken a golden pick to them and broken the surface of the fourth. It was irritating, but nothing that couldn't be fixed with the application of heat.

Then I noticed a good friend of mine cutting out pieces like puzzles. She was melting pearlized plastic into sheets she could cut shapes from, and was using the plastic to create modern wood-less marquetry. I loved the contrast of the purple and silver.

Then a new man we'd never seen before, with raven dark hair, emerald green eyes, a lovely tan, beautiful, even, white teeth, and a sexy vibe walked in. He made me nervous, not least of which because he was so attractive, but he also seemed interested in me, and that wasn't a good thing, because my family was at home, a twelve hour drive away.

He happened to be standing in front of the only magazine my friend and I needed, so I stepped forward with a polite but quiet "excuse me" and a head nod to both acknowledge his stepping aside and avoid eye contact.

I grabbed a copy then basically fled from the room with my friend. Once we were out of the cafeteria, we slowed down and I laughed, imagining what that must have looked like: nervous approach, deer like retreat, and practically running from the room.

We giggled at our foolishness, then opened the magazine. It was called "Con" and the cover featured maroon and black candy stripes fading to black background, with a close up on a porcelain fair woman, one-quarter turned to the left but looking directly out at the viewer, unsmiling, and knowing, wearing a white Elizabethan collar, and hot pink lipstick and eye makeup that was reminiscent of a scary, weeping clown, but so enthralling, you didn't want to look away.

It was supposed to tell you how to get into the convention scene, but when we turned the page, an ancient forest unfolded before us and when we stepped into it, it surrounded us, the reunion forgotten.
Before us in a clearing was an enormous tree, in a sorry state. Great branches were broken, others decayed, but the heart of the tree was still alive.

My friend stopped short, afraid to approach, but the tree called to me.

As I placed my hands in its rough bark, I knew it was a forgotten and abandoned World Tree. Despite my friend's protests, when a door opened into the tree, I entered and it closed behind me.

I spent my life clearing the lost, broken and dead civilizations from its branches, and made metallic steampunk supports to brace new developments. I couldn't remove the scars of war. But I tended the new shoots that sprouted under my watch with utmost care.

In my old age, I stepped out and away from the tree to see my work, and it shone like a living jewel before me.

I smiled as I lay at the roots, looking up into the sunlight, flitting through the leaves, and counted my life spent worthwhile. As I inhaled my last breath, the air was clean. And I closed my eyes content.
To open my eyes into reality and wonder, "What am -I- doing to help the world tree flourish?"

I'm still pondering it.


So we fast forward to two weeks ago when my friend Deanna asked me if I was going to participate in the Leslie Saeta 30 in 30 challenge, and I said "Sure!" to discover it was a happening all of two weeks later.  I remember how much fun I had the first time I participated in 2013, and thought it an excellent opportunity to get back to painting regularly (which, if you ask Leslie, is part of the point).

I've had a theme percolating in my mind since I had that dream, of an art project called "Leaves on the World Tree".  I also had twenty mini canvases sitting in my studio looking at me forlornly.  So I figured they'd make great little studies as I continue to work out the idea.

I'm pairing each of the current major ethnic groups (there are about 90 of them) with either the tree they claim as their national tree, or a tree they're known for.  I can already tell there are going to be some hard ones as I go along, as there are some places just not know for trees.  But they all have plant life, so I'll adjust as needed.

I started by priming my little boards.

Four layers and sanding later, and I was ready to start today's piece.

All of them are going to have rainbow colored backgrounds, as a world sign of creation, divinity, good luck, hope, potential, harmony, connection, balance and spirituality.  The mini canvases are giving me a chance to work on color techniques for the backgrounds, and placement for the vegetation.

The first thing I did this morning was try out saran wrap:

I learned a couple of things right here:

1.  It's been a while since I worked on canvas vs paper.  Canvas, especially gessoed canvas, does NOT absorb color the way paper does.
2.  I -love- the gentle subtle colors of this-- but not for this piece.  I don't want any white in the background for these, but I'll save this technique for other work later.
3.  My least favorite part of working on canvas is waiting for the paint to dry (lol).  Yes, I could blow dry it, but it moves the concentrations of the paint, and I didn't want it to do that.

So I added the next layer:

Darker!  Still not dark enough.  AND I've only got 1 day to complete this...  So this is also filed under "save this technique for later" because I really do love the way it's coming along.  But it won't work for today's project, so:

Because I need vibrant colors today!

Even made sure to get the sides, as I'm not used to having to paint any (;

Then I drew my basic shape and began adding my white with my 5/0 paintbrush:

This was where I discovered these are going to have to be studies and not the final pieces for what I have in my head, because I'll need to be working with a bigger medium to get the kind of detail I'm after.

And I'm okay with that (:

After a couple of layers of white so that it would stand out against the colors better.  But it's still not popping like I want, so it's not done.

I used the same little 5/0 brush to begin outlining some of the leaves in the opposite color from the background (ex. red and orange in the background purple, purple and blue in background red).  The first major ethnic group (I'm working alphabetically) is Albanian, and their tree is the olive.  In fact, the olive tree is thought to have originated in Albania.

I painted 7 olives, representing spiritual awakening and the collective consciousness.  Albanian olive is the first leaf on my world tree.

Here's a close up of the finished piece:

"Leaves on the World Tree: The Albanian Olive" Study
by Janin Wise
3" x 3" acrylic on mini canvas


  1. WOW I adore this idea! This is a beautiful start. If this is a study I can't wait to see your final idea.

    FYI if you want little panels, Cheap Joe's Art Stuff is a great place to get them.

    1. Thanks, Deanna (: I have to admit, I was just a tad disappointed when I realized I wouldn't be able to leap right in to the final pieces-- but then I figured I can truly play with these ones, and use them as a guidebook to the bigger idea later (: And thank you! I'm going to need a total of 90 of them!


I'd love to hear your thoughts!