David Hockney’s hedgerows

Looking at pictures of  trees and foliage, I was reminded of the documentary David Hockney: A Bigger Picture . In the film, we see Hockney, having left life in Los Angeles, standing on the grass verges of Yorkshire country lanes with canvas and easel, painting the landscape in all weathers.

Here he has chosen a common sight of the English countryside, the hedgerow. I am interested in it because it is not a conventionally picturesque rural scene and could be unremarkable. He has included the road and a grass verge. It reminds me of a photograph and you get the sense that you are standing in the location. In fact, anyone could park at this spot and take a look. It has an unconventional composition and we look dead on at the elderflower which takes over the middle area. The simple house is tucked to the side.

Any hedgerow is incredibly complex. This painting makes me think of  the physical energy of the artist, (some of the paintings were done at great speed) and very intense study and ‘looking’ to make sense of the foliage and light on that particular day. There is also a great feeling of pleasure at that July day.

Elderflower Blossom, Kilham, July


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Trees by Paul Cezanne

How to paint trees?

I have been looking at this painting by Cézanne to understand how to give trees their three dimensional form.

The large area of shadow works in two ways. It pushes the tree in the foreground towards us and sends the smaller  tree across the fields into the distance. This is with very simple means, may be two or three tones of leaf green. Light falls in a column on the large left hand tree, on its leaves and on the trunk, with a shadowy gap which sets the leaves still further towards us.

It is a very unsentimental and it makes you  feels as if you are standing there in the countryside.

The Avenue at the Jas de Bouffan. Paul Cézanne  1868-70. Tate/National Gallery.

Cross section of a tree

cross section tree

I took this photo on walk in Devon. A dead tree stands directly in front of a leafy one. The combination looks as if someone has split one tree down the middle, as Damien Hirst would his sheep and cows.

On this plate, the trees is painted in a similar way.  The branches are drawn first, and the leaves added as if they exist only in the same plane, and not in a voluminous three dimensional space.

Dish. Charles II hiding in oak tree, flanked by lion and unicorn. English. c.1680
© The Trustees of the British Museum