Creative Process: Laurie Leavitt

Above: Summer Birches

I love nature and trees especially symbolize nature’s magnificence and stability to me. Trees are challenging yet inviting to portray because of the dynamic quality and complexity of their many leaves and branches. They enable me to be less precise, more free and painterly in conveying their rhythm and energy through my brush strokes.

The birch trees caught my eye when I visited Maine a couple of years ago. I made a painting from photos I took and then I started noticing them wherever I went. The birches featured in Summer Birches are from the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA.

With Summer Birches I wanted to work large (30” x 40”) and try to capture the light and airy quality of the birch trees against the blue sky.  As I worked on this painting I made conscious decisions such as covering the canvas with an under painting, a wash of cool light blue on the top and a warm yellow ochre for the bottom half. Then I am not facing a white canvas and I like to let these bright washes of color shine through. After I sketch in the layout with paint the process becomes more intuitive, going and back and forth from dark to light and responding to the subject. At first I can feel unsure and like the work is a struggle but I try to persist and gradually if I am successful it comes somewhat into focus and resembles the image that originally inspired me. As I have painted over the years I am less of a slave to the photograph and more interested in what I can take from it and make into a painting. As I work I can get lost in the process and it feels a bit like a meditation.  If I am happy with the composition, have resolved any problems and the painting retains a freshness and spontaneity, I am finished.