Painting a Christmas Tree Brings Out My Inner Child

My latest painting was inspired by children singing, laughter in the air and colored lights glowing.

Dec. 2

Excited to join the festivities around the annual , I thought a night painting in front of the  might be a creative challenge.

The supplies and gear remained the same. The only things different were the addition of a headlamp to see what I was painting and a flashlight clamped to my paintbox to see the colors on the palette.

I was greeted with the sounds of children singing amid the gentle sprinkling of rain. Snow flakes would have been more festive, but then I quickly remembered why I moved from Colorado back to my home state of California.

From the black of night to the instantaneous flash of colored lights, murmurings turned into cheers as parents looked at the wonderment in their children's eyes. How could I capture this moment and this giant tree on a 9-inch-by-12-inch canvas?

Wandering around the tree from a distance and up close, I decided to paint the tree from the base, looking up—much like the children were experiencing it.

Then I decided to wait awhile so I would not be in the way of the children running around the tree. I lined up for a Christmas cookie and a warm drink.

Opening my paintbox I mixed the colors with my palette knife. I thought I could paint faster and apply thicker brighter colors if I used the palette knife instead of a brush. With broad strokes I smoothed the night sky with raindrops into the background.

I felt like I was decorating a Christmas cookie as I applied green frosting-like paint into the shape of the tree. The garlands were placed around the tree with the colored edge of my palette knife. To paint the ornaments I placed more than one color on the tip of the flexible palette knife, then swirled it into the green branches.

The colored lights were bright and shimmering against the night sky. I mixed piles of red, blue, green and yellow while humming holiday songs. The joy of the holiday season, filled with family traditions, propelled my hand as I dabbed the colored lights all over the tree.

I stepped back to look at the painting and laughed out loud, saying to myself, "It looks like a child's painting!"

Indeed it was.

The child in me, remembering the joys of decorating trees and cookies over the years, was the one making the painting this night.

Janet Arline Barker is a San Bruno artist who specializes in plein-art painting. Her column appears biweekly on Sundays.

Janet Arline Barker December 15, 2010 at 04:46 AM
"Wonderful, just wonderful . . . and I love the tree! Definitely the child in you shows in the painting. The child in me comes to the tree too, remembering." s. yarborough
Bardi Rosman Koodrin December 15, 2010 at 06:41 PM
What a magical tree you've created. It brought me back to my earliest childhood and those first few impressionable Christmas memories, when our family trees looked just like that through my young eyes. I imagine lots of kids and their families crowded around to watch you create it.


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