Spruced-Up Trees and Aurora Borealis

I’m a bit on the outskirts, as holidays go. We celebrated Chanukah when I was a kid, and it was fun to light the candles, get the presents and think about the Maccabees and the oil lamp that lasted for 8 days.  My wife’s holiday tradition includes Christmas. Since it is the season, I painted her a gift secretly for a week or so.

Last-week-or-so’s watercolor experiment:

I don’t know a lot about Christmas trees, so I looked up the spruce variety. The first picture I saw was perfect.  I did a quick sketch and used my watercolor resist (liquid latex) to prepare places for the stars in the sky and the ornaments on the central tree.

I washed the sky area several times before it was dark enough. The surface was uneven, so I doubled down and used a sponge to remove even more of the dark sky. I angled the lighter streaks toward the center of the composition. After drying, I added some greens and reds in an attempt to represent the aurora borealis.

Day-by-day, I painted foliage (using turquoise blue), and the wide horizontal shadows (shadow green). I made the trees of the background less interesting and more muted. I had to be ready at a moment’s notice to quickly stow the painting out of sight if Joy should come into the room.

Sometimes there would be days when I couldn’t paint at all and sometimes I was able to add more greens to the tree (Hooker’s, phthalo and other greens as well).  After I removed the latex, I had to be careful not to dilute the pigment too much lest a sudden arrival by Joy cause a sudden jerk in acceleration by my quick return of it to its hiding place, leaving streaks instead of beaded ornaments being held in place by the surface tension of the watery pigment. Fortunately this did not happen.

I took my time and added colored ornaments that seemed harmonious with the rest of the ornamentation. I had real imitation silver and gold pigments that I used for tinsel and for the stars.

Watercolor: Spruce Christmas Trees

Spruced-Up Tree and Aurora Borealis
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block, Double Matted and Framed

Joy liked the painting, the trees and the snowy night sky in the background. I thought her interpretation was better than mine.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Holidays or just plain Peace to All, irrespective of celebratory choice.

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