Monday, March 25, 2024

In Memoriam of a Pink Dogwood

Part I 

Dang They Were Right

In the spring of 2020 we were all hunkering down, trying to avoid contracting Covid-19. That gave me the opportunity to fulfill a dream I'd had for awhile--painting my own backyard. The spring flowers came in a great array of lilacs, daffodils, dogwoods,  azaleas and more. Almost every afternoon during the months of April and May I was outside painting my own landscape.

I was especially attracted to our dogwoods, both native and domesticated. 

There was the beautiful pink dogwood in our backyard. What a showoff!!

Most of you viewers know that a fire raged through our valley in the fall of that year, taking out our home as well as most of our decorative shrubs and trees.  Many trees burned and fell, but the pink dogwood still stood.  I was told by many folks, including experts, that the bark at the bottom of the tree was gone, therefore the tree could not live. There was no way for the water and nutrients to travel to and from leaves to the roots. "Face it Margaret, the tree is dead." 

However, I refused to take it out and somewhat miraculously the wonderful blooms came back for two more springs. How that happened, I do not know, but last spring there were no blooms. It's dead branches did serve a purpose last summer though, as many birds enjoyed sitting there and that gave us wonderful viewing of many different bird species. 

That pink dogwood was such a symbol for me. Somehow I could deny all that we had lost if the tree bloomed. But dead it was! 

This winter I reluctantly agreed that it should go.

Part II

The Concept Artist has a Plan

In memoriam ( in memory of someone who has died)

Once the tree was gone we had a couple of options. We could just clear out the small circle of vegetation that surrounded the now removed dogwood and turn it into lawn, OR we could get a new tree! 

When it comes to gardening and yard work there is a bit of a struggle between the planter (me) and the mower/weed wacker (Mike). I plant and he wacks. Sometimes a new, smaller plant or tree takes a bit of damage accidentally. 

I really wanted to replace my symbolic pink dogwood tree and I wanted it's new small trunk protected from damage. As I contemplated this potential problem, the concept artist I am came up with a vision. We could build a small 8 or 10 foot circular wall, elevating the tree and creating a garden space for blooming plants around it. 

As Mike and I were driving into town the other day, I shared my idea with him. We had agreed on the new tree, but I doubted he would like the thought of one more project. To my surprise, he immediately got on board. After looking at rocks and bricks designed for this sort of work at Lane Forest Products, Mike proposed we used the river rock/mini boulders we have on our property.

On several spots around our six acres, we found some stones big enough to build a wall, yet small enough for us to roll into the bucket of our borrowed tractor. Once moved to our designated dogwood home, we would have to maneuver them into a circle.

After a short ride, the rocks were being dumped down on a 10 foot square of landscape fabric.

Mike got on his knees to fill gaps among the large rocks with smaller ones. 

Amazingly, with a day's work of rolling, hauling, dumping, filling and planting one tree, my concept came to fruition! 

View from the house.

This dogwood is  called a rosy teacup (a different variety than the one we lost) and I hope to see one or two of these blooms in the next month.


Thursday, March 7, 2024

Masking, Simplifying and Patterns

Sometimes I come in from the studio "juiced up." The last few days I've been zeroing in on an idea of abstracting and simplifying a painting based on the night workers who came into our yard (working from dusk into the dark) to hook us up with electricity after eight days without power. So the question was how to communicate floodlights, big equipment, workers on trees, etc. And for whatever reason, I realized I was using the help of so many instructors and artists I've learned with along the way:

  • Geoff McCormack for the smooth blue background and masking
  • Fran Larsen for premixing the paint to get a consistent color and think about "What if"
  • Ratindra Das for sketching and composition
  • Frank Webb for symplification
  • Katherine Chang Liu for telling me I could paint anything
  • and more...
So attempt one taught me a few things.

Masking tape and Oramask allow me to pour on a deep, dark night sky.

Next I could simplify and unify the lower portion by applying an orange background color.

As I completed this first painting with a unified dark brown in the "ground" and patterned both the trees and the ground I felt it was missing some potential excitement. 


I pulled out my collage materials and began to place pieces around to add a little chutzpah.

(This has not been glued down yet, so it's still in the works.)

I then taped another sheet of paper, adding 3 inches and a tree to the left. Once again putting down a powerful dark blue.

Upside down to let the blue paint run toward the top.

I'm delighted with the results of 2nd painting.

Night Workers
Transparent Watercolor
21 x 18 inches

What I am pleased with: 

  • Simplicity
  • Colors
  • Patterns and more patterns
  • Storytelling
As always, I would love to hear from you!!