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Do You Have an Artist's Eye?

Nothing is "just" anything, when you look deeper.

Have you ever thought "Seen one tree, seen 'em all?" If you'd spent three years paying attention to a single tree, like painter Stephen Taylor did, you'd never think such a thing again. About anything.

A lovely new hardcover book by Stephen Taylor, called Oak: One Tree, Three Years, Fifty Paintings, has 112 pages featuring 125 color illustrations. Taylor, a painter in Essex, England, was mourning the loss of his parents and a close friend when he began painting a 250-year-old oak tree at different times and in widely varying light. It's amazing that all the paintings are of the same tree.

Happily for the word-obsessed, there are plenty of brief explanations, elucidations, and expansions on the lovely color visuals, including a helpful foreword by celebrated writer Alain de Botton. A casual page-flipper tempted to say, "Oh, that tree again. So what?" will be enlightened by Taylor's words:

The exclusion of everything in the landscape but tree, sky, and crop had a condensing effect. It also resulted in a composition in three time dimensions: a slowly changing tree, a more quickly changing crop, and rapidly changing weather and light.


At one point Taylor compares the work of certain poets and composers to what he does: "They take the intensely private experience of the landscape—nature through the senses—and turn them into something that can be shared by others."

It interested me that Taylor uses a computer in his work, but not in the way one might expect. He takes photos of his subject, transfers the photos into Adobe Photoshop

to analyse as layers to help me discover the distribution of colours. ... Traditional oil painting also has layers: painters, like Titian, built images up from separate layers of colour, wet onto dry. This is the way I work. I use the colours from the study made outdoors to determine colours for the wet-on-dry layers that I build up on my painting in the studio.

I can recommend Oak to any artist or would-be artist in any genre, as well as to those who have wondered why artists often use the same subjects repeatedly and are able to produce something new each time.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Susan K. Perry

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