by Jim Kowalczyk
While visiting Anderson State Park off Hwy. 19 in Tarpon Springs, FL I spotted a large ficus tree which I think is also called the "Strangler Tree". The limbs and branches of this unusual tree grow in a rather haphazard way and they send off new hanging shoots that resemble Spanish Moss but are a color along the lines of burnt sienna or burnt umber. I sat down to paint but soon found the subject far too complicated to accomplish what I had in mind and be true to the light and shadows which were moving quickly. Decided to take a photo. I then took the photo back to the studio where I had the time to do a decent sketch on a canvas board of this interesting but complicated subject. The following day I went back to the park with my sketch, set up my pochade box and went to work at actually painting.
One hears that plein air painting often involves or even demands "simplifying" but, in this case, I just could not figure out how to simplify this tree and get a decent plein air painting in 2-3 hrs. without it looking pretty abstract. I think taking a picture for the purpose of creating a sketch "off site" and then returning was the way to go. The picture I've posted looks a bit more harsh than the actual painting.