Melody Oak (oil on canvas 18 x 24 in.) Sold

1 October 2015 finds me looking up into the canopy of a big old pasture Burr Oak, near the Carp Hills, west of Ottawa. This grand old tree is a world unto itself. Its branches arch across my entire field of vision as I recline with tilted easel a few metres from its roots. Its actual base is hidden from sight by the cherry bushes and buckthorns that crowd close about it. The burls at the bottom of my painting are really half way up its trunk. The sun moves up and over from the right,
backlighting that side of the tree and glowing through the leaves. I love the relationship between foliage and sky. When I look upward I'm conscious of sharing the tree's perspective, feeling sunlight and air on leaves. The sky becomes part of the tree as the tree reaches up into the sky.

This is an individual prized for its magnificent living presence - by Sandy, who commissioned me to paint its portrait. She writes:
"Before we ever built here (seven years vacant) I named the land Melody Oak. I walked it, by myself, one lovely May day. A soft wind was blowing the knee-high grass, and birds, even Meadowlarks, were singing everywhere. The Oak was like a sentinel guarding over all ... Melody Oak. I'm calling the painting that. It represents a lovely time in my life"

She asked me to come and start the painting before the leaves begin to turn, so here I am on perhaps the last day before a hard frost. There is no singing in its branches now, as all the migratory birds have flown. Leaves rustle as the wind freshens. I grab my easel, tugged by the umbrella I've rigged up for shade. A Crow caws, winging across the field behind me, and that is all. The horses watch curiously from the field by the barn. They've been moved there so as not to disturb the artist. I'm glad that I have skill and opportunity to record a sense of place and time, even if it's become too windy and the light has changed, necessitating the finishing of the painting indoors.

4 November:
I have returned to the Melody Oak, now leafless, to paint the burls at mid-trunk. They are more visible now as the leaves have fallen from the buckthorns whose branch tips were just at that height. It is pleasant to feel the autumn sun on a cool day, to take my time in finishing the painting of the ridges and grooves in the texture of the bark - and then sign the painting, photograph it, and leave it with Sandy.



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