Vitex trees, one of my favorites

Plein air Vitex tree

Plein air Vitex tree, 9″ x 12″ watercolor.  Unframed $65

I don’t know if you have vitex trees where you live, but I find them one of the more beautiful trees we have here.  It’s a tree from the Mediterranean the it grows well in our temperate hot climate. The leaves bud in May and the beautiful purple or white blooms come in June.  Stunning.  And the older the tree gets, the more gnarled its trunk’s character.  When they are small, they often look like shrubs but are multi trunked trees.

We went out plein air painting at Sunset Gardens landscaping store/restaurant  in May and I stumbled upon this little gully and tree along the back of the open area, and my painting spot would be in the shade (A big plus!)

plein air vitex photos (1)

Plein air set up looking at the young tree

plein air vitex photos (2)

On the easel on the day.

After all the bustle of the past several weeks of the show, getting my inventory ready for the gallery, and then gallery sitting, in addition to health issues of the folks and my daughters’ activities, I hadn’t had time to paint.  And, of course, I had a crisis of confidence that I couldn’t paint anymore.  and of course, I procrastinated!  does that sound familiar to anyone?

If you’re in that situation, I can suggest that you pick up in progress pieces and squint…see that you don’t have enough of a range of values, in my case, not enough darks to spike it up, and then work on those.  That’s what I did this for this week’s painting group, rather than the angst of starting something new, or just playing (which is fine in itself), I took several in process pieces and worked on finishing them.

What I did for this one was add darks in the shrubbery and branches keeping in mind where the sun is, and I added more colors in the sky to make the white/light spots of the flower bunches near the top of the tree. Then I reinforced the shadows under the tree.

I will post more finished pieces later this week.  What do you do when you have a crisis of confidence?  I’d love to get some more tips…



4–> 40 First day with the new easel

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vitex tree with cool shadows

Saturday I took the new easel out for a test drive, and it was fabulous.  I think it’s perfect for what i wanted.  It’s from a company called En Plein Air Pro and it’s made specifically for watercolor painting.  What makes it that, you ask?  Well, I will tell you.  The plane of the paper can be any degree from fully horizontal to fully vertical.  Traditional easels made for oils and acrylics may have some adjustments, but there’s no problem with those paints being done vertically because they are fuller bodied than watercolors which tend to run when really wet!

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easel set up in the shade with the painting started

So I had about a little over an hour before needing to gallery sit at the latest Art Association show, so I headed out to Memorial Park to see what struck my fancy.  I wasted time driving around, looking at this view and that, but ended up coming back to this vitex tree with its cool shadows.  This tree is unusual in its sprawling trunks and scraggy appearance with the seed pods of this summer’s flowers sticking up all over in little points.

I knew it would be challenging…but OH those shadows!

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taking the easel indoors to the art gallery

So here’s the setup in the shade, for comfort and to not have the sun’s glare on the paper distorting the colors and values.  Because it was the first day, I didn’t have the paints squeezed onto the palette shelf that came with it, so I have the palette covered and have my existing palette on top.  As it turned out I only had 20 minutes of actual painting time so it was a good start but needed more work.

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Vitex Shadows 8″ x 10″ watercolor

Back at the gallery, it was great to have the easel and take up less floor space than dragging out and setting up a table, etc.

So, showing the work warts and all, my finished result is not what I wanted, but there were a couple of “aha” moments when it was all clicking and I realized I’d learned something..

One thing I learned in the workshop is that the instructor recommends to put shadows down first before the local color (in this case the warmth of the grass) because he feels it integrates better.  And I’m sure that’s true.  What I need to do in future is to be more sure of the value of my shadows because my first layer was too light and I went back in twice.  I know the shadow would be much better if it were laid down once.

The next thing I learned is that while I’m happy with the color blending in the foliage I need to have a better plan to get it right and somehow show a bit of those scraggly bits, but the wheels are whirring in my mind on how to do it better, so I’m expecting fun times of practice in the next couple of days.

All in all, it was a fun premiere of the easel, and I’ll tell you more about it with pictures in coming posts.  Thanks for stopping by!