Tree of Life Series

When Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, they were cast out of the Garden of Eden. Ever since then, access to the Tree of Life was restricted, and Cherubim with a flaming sword were placed to guard the way. Ever since then, man has been seeking to regain the presence of the Lord that was lost when access to the Tree of Life was lost. The Temple is the symbolic return of man into the presence of the Lord. The Ancient Temple of Israel had two rooms, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The Holy Place is a sacred space symbolic of the covenant life, but the Holy of Holies is the most sacred place, symbolic of the presence of the Lord. These rooms are separated by a veil which symbolized the denied access to the presence of the Lord resulting from the Fall.

Like Adam and Eve, we are separated from the Tree of Life. Being born into mortality a veil was placed between us and the Lord. And although the Tree of Life is obscured from our view, we can still sense it. In these paintings, I have sought to depict this condition by gessoing a square of canvas right on to the board. This “veil” blocks a full view of the Tree of Life but allows for a silhouette to still be seen. And as the ancient Israel temple veil was made up of three colors- Scarlet, Blue, and Purple- the under-painting for each of these three paintings are made up of these same colors.

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Background: “Consider the Lilies”

This weekend I began a new goal. While teaching the Creation in class, I gave my students a challenge to look for ways to create/produce/ accomplish more. As I was challenging them, I decided to challenge myself. So I set a goal to produce a painting a week for the next two months. That will result in 16 paintings by the end of May, starting with this idea I’ve had for a while now.

The back story to this concept actually comes from my mom. She passed away in 2006. At her funeral she wanted her favorite song performed, “Consider the Lilies” by Roger Hoffman. (My sister-in-law Lindsay did a fabulous job singing it). This song is based on a part of that great sermon the Savior gave in Matthew 5-7 where He taught His disciples “…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:  And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you…?” (Matt 6:28-30)

My mom never told me why this was her favorite song but I suppose at least part of the reason is because she and my dad struggled financially off and on throughout their marriage. My dad did a very good job of making sure we never went without, and we certainly had help from family and friends, but the whole trial was very stressful. I picture my mom in the moments of greatest stress, thinking “consider the lilies- God took care of them, He’ll take care of us.”

So to begin I gathered some images of the Holy Land in Spring. I’ve never been there, but I wanted the image to be as authentic as I could get it. In doing so I discovered, for instance, that the lilies Christ would’ve been referring to were red, not white. Also from listening to a conversation on the  Mormon channel with Kelly Ogden, he stated how green the Holy Land actually is in the spring. So I wanted to bring out those colors in the pallet.

Also I had in my mind a view from a hilltop (this was the sermon on the mount after all) where atmospheric perspective cools and fades the hilltops in the distance.

Above is the roughed out composition where I established the figures in foreground and the distant hills in the background. Originally I planned on having the Savior and the disciples standing in shadows, but I was losing them in the composition so I highlighted them and loved how they stood out from the rest of the scene.

Next I darkened the foreground, added the lilies and developed the figures more. But I wasn’t loving the lilies. They were too deliberate, and that wasn’t fitting with the easiness of the rest of the painting. But I struggled with how to solve it.

To solve these types of problems I look at other artists I like and see how they solved similar problems. I looked Douglas Fryer’s blog, I love his landscapes as he seems to use his pallet knife to create simple scenes. So I used my pallet knife to knock down the lilies and give more of a hint rather than an overt description of them.

Finally I went back to the figures to finish them off. The scene is still further back so I tried to keep the details in their features to a minimum. I may do some minor touch-ups after it sits in my living room for awhile, but for now, I’m very pleased with how it turned out.