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Artist's Reflections on Arbor Day About Her Conquered Fear of Painting Trees at a Scottish Castle

Guest Author (a fellow Scot) & Writer, AMANDA BRODIE STENLUND peeks out from Elgin Cathedral ruins in Scotland.


I used to be afraid to paint trees. A lot of people say the human figure is the most difficult thing to paint. For me it was trees. All through high school and college I happily painted people or still lifes. In my first landscape painting in high school, the trees looked like they were made of Legos. Blocky and unnatural.

When I started painting again around 2015, I wanted to paint landscapes. I also wanted to be a better painter, so I had to try trees again. On the left here (above) is the beginning of a very bad painting of trees. It didn’t get better, and I painted over it. And the right: These trees look like monsters reaching up to their monster cloud cousins.

Yuk. But watch them get better.

I seek out a good tree now. I "looove" their gnarly branches, their silhouettes, their shadows, and now—probably because I’m middle-aged—I like their histories. The older the better. This leads into my fascination with the yew tree in the middle of the lawn at Brodie Castle in Forres, Scotland. I was painting there on an artists' retreat.

That pretty, old castle is special, but then think about that tree—it’s older AND you can go inside of it, too. The little bench under the branches of the yew is a poignant touch. It not only shows the scale of the tree, but also a relationship between man and nature. That's a nice thought to think on Arbor Day.


Amanda Brodie Stenlund


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