Haunted Holidays: Ancient Tree

Haunted Holidays: Ancient Tree

Posted by Robyn Wall on

Week Three
October 17th through the 23rd

Sometimes you try new things and they turn out to be the best decision. And sometimes you get excited about something different and end up disappointed by the outcome.

Both situations are valuable. 

This just happened to be one of those that didn’t turn out so well. But you have to take risks to improve your skills and learn about what works and what doesn’t. The thing is... I can’t quite figure out what it is about this week's piece I don’t like 

With a prompt of Ancient Tree, I was a little apprehensive yet brimming with ideas. My week started off well with three different sketches. I do hate choosing, though. 


I really liked the first sketch. It felt very ME and I knew I would execute it well. But it also felt safe, a little boring, and definitely not ancient. 

Most of my followers loved the middle sketch and I can’t say I blame them. The twisty tree trunk with the heart at the center is super fucking cool. The color pallet was really throwing me off. I couldn’t figure out what colors would work well for it and that made me hesitant. 

The third sketch was my favorite. Creepy and a little weird. Something different from the type of work I usually do. An ancient tree monster seemed particularly fitting for this Haunted Holidays challenge. And so I went with it. 


Painting the leaves started off really well. I was excited about using my signature smokey technique in a new way. Similar to how I painted the ivy from the first week, but with more variation and detail throughout. 


I absolutely loved this! The leaves just look so pretty.

Adding some moss was kind of last-minute decision. One I sort of wish I hadn't made because it was excessively difficult to paint around. 


It did look damn good, though. 

It wasn’t until I began painting the trunk that I realized this piece was going to give me some problems. Using a dark brown solid wash would not cut it. The tree needed some texture, but... I just couldn't figure it out. This is strange because I have successfully painted woodgrain and bark before….


Overall, it didn’t turn out so bad but it was a genuine struggle. I kept going over and over it until I got a texture I liked. 

The next problem was figuring out what kind of background I wanted. This creature definitely felt like it was growing on or out of something and not just hovering in some magical smoke stuff. I had the idea to create kind of a rough, abstract, rocky terrain partially covered in moss. The idea was that I could create texture blending in with my smokey painting technique. 


At first when I took the leap with this, I HATED it. I kept thinking “what have I done, what have I done?!” But I pushed through the doubt and produced that honestly, turned out better than I thought it would.

Stepping back from my work, though, it felt very unbalanced. All of the heavy dark paint and texture on the bottom was weighing down the light airy leaves at the top. It felt off. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I was proud of all the individual steps and pieces of this painting but they just did not work well together. Baffled and annoyed at my lack of direction for fixing this, I left the piece tapped down in my studio for days trying to figure out something, ANYTHING, to make it better. 

My only hope was to add some mountains up past the leaf line. I was apprehensive about that as I did not want to make things worse by creating a muddy mess.

The thing is though, I didn’t like is how it was so I may as well do the risky thing cause maybe that will make it better. And even if it doesn’t, I don't like it anyway, right? At least that is what I told myself.

So I went for it. 


And I do think it helped. The piece feels much more balanced and I like the cool distant foggy mountains. 

There wasn't anything else I could do to make myself like this more so I just moved on to the outline.

Adding little snowy peaks to the mountains in the background was an impulse but I think it turned out okay. My favorite part is the white outlines on the Ancient Tree Monster. 

I wish I loved this piece more. I wish I felt as excited about the finished product as I did about the initial sketch. At least I learned some things, though. The mossy rocks turned out really well and I hope I’ll get to develop that technique in the future. 

What do you think, am I being too harsh with this painting?


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