Painting Abroad – Part 3

"Ancient Elm", 14 inches by 11 inches, oils on canvas.

“Ancient Elm”, 14 inches by 11 inches, oils on canvas.

You never know where a good painting will happen. During my six weeks in Europe, I was looking for inspiration in all the epic cultural monuments: magnificent old castles, beautiful cathedrals, the classic boulevards that dominate so many of these old world cities. It turns out that I was actually the happiest with a painting that I made of a relatively simple subject I could find just about anywhere: an old tree.

I was staying in Vidzeme Region near Riga, Latvia at a friend’s residence, and after taking a tour around the town (basically a small village on the outskirts of a huge forest, of which there are hundreds in Latvia), I saw this large tree that bordered on a nearby stream. It was the sort of tree I would have been drawn to like a magnet as a child – wide enough to hide behind, with a large exposed trunk that invites one to climb aboard.

Apparently, in Latvia, if a tree is old enough and has enough imposing stature, it is actually granted protected status from logging by designation as an “ancient tree”. This intrigued me. That a country with so many trees would take special care that a few of them that are particularly grandiose be protected shows that they have sort of institutionalized nostalgia for these beautiful giants.

I remember paying very close attention to the relative value of the trunk, and waiting to paint the dappled light on the ground cover until the sun moved out of the clouds. I think this really helped capture a special sense of atmosphere.

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I also painted at the house we were staying at. Here is my depiction of the roses and a homemade greenhouse in the backyard. Many Latvian homes in this area had greenhouses and gardens, built by their owners for growing vegetables and other foodstuffs.

I could go on and on about the many experiences during my stay in Europe… but that might take a while. If you’d like to see more, check out a Tumblr blog that my girlfriend and I curated during our travels. It includes many images and descriptions of our adventures. Needless to say, I am chock full of inspiration for a long time to come! Stay tuned as I take many of these memories and translate them into the most vivid medium of all: oil and paint on canvas (that’s my opinion, anyhow!). Thanks for stopping by!

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