Lewis and Me, and the Story of Tree

Last week on Facebook, one of my online friends posted a photograph of musician M.T. Robison of M.T. Robison and the Messengers, taken by band manager, Linda Shrader.  For those of you who don’t know who M.T. is, I’ll simply quote from his website where his bio shares that he’s a “prolific and gifted songwriter and captivating performer with a positive message that appeals to all ages. Dynamic and full of energy, MT is a charismatic front man, visually been compared to Beck, Iggy Pop, and Steven Tyler, entertaining and engaging the audience.”

Now I won’t pretend to know the man past comments on MySpace and Facebook and LIKING some of the same pages.  What I do know is that as a musician and a songwriter myself, I find his songs to be engaging and thought-provoking.  Do I like everything he writes? Of course not.  He probably doesn’t like everything I write either and I’m fine with that.  But I digress.

Anyway, our mutual Facebook friend, Joanna just happened to post a photo of M.T. that was taken by Linda Shrader.   While it’s true she manages M.T.’s band, she’s an artist in her own right and is known for her amazing murals.  But you know, that photo she took of M.T. relaxing against an old oak in a field was such an amazing photograph that I couldn’t resist asking permission to sketch and/or paint it.

So there I was on Saturday morning, with my sketch book and coloured pencils in hand.  My 16-year-old son, Lewis was busy on his own art project and together we sat side-by-side while we created art.  I had been sketching about half an hour when my son asked, “Mom, how do you know what colours to use to make bark on that tree?”  I stopped, looked up at him and blinked.  How did I know? 

“Well,” I began, “a lot of it is based on what I’ve seen first hand.  When I look at the world, I like to take note of what colours are in the things that I like to look at.  Take trees ….” 

Anyone who has known me for any length of time will confirm that I love nature.  I am particularly interested in trees and wood for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the natural patterns found in a tree or a plank of wood oftentimes have a story to share with those who pay attention.  Ask any wood-carver and he’ll confirm that fact.

I held up the coloured pencils I was using.  “What colours do you NOT see in this hand?” I asked Lewis.

“Brown,” he answered.

“Right.  And what colours DO you see?”  I continued.

“Well, you have three different greys, two different greens and a pretty ugly yellow,” he observed, smiling as he waited to see if I would object to having the yellow referred to as ugly.

“But what do you see when you look at the tree I’m sketching?” I asked him.

“I don’t see the greys so much and I don’t see the yellow at all,” he answered, his brow furrowing slightly.  “I see the green and hey! how did that BROWN get in there?”

“Is there brown in there?” I quizzed him with an inquisitive look.

“Well, it looks brown to me,” he said.  “Oh wait … it’s not really brown.  No, it’s brown.  Well, it’s brownish grey.”  He looked at me, mildly frustrated.  “I don’t know what it is.”

“Well, here, let me help you out,” I offered. ” The three greys I’m using are a dark grey, a smoke grey and a blue grey.  The greens are a true green and a deep green, and the yellow is a burned yellow.  When you mix those colours together like I’m doing on this piece, your mind blends them for you and that’s why you think you’re seeing brown.  All of the colours blend together to give the impression that there’s brown bark on the tree.”  He nodded his head.

“Your brain is a powerful thing,” I added.  “It’s able to fill things in that aren’t there.  It’s like that with art.  It’s like that with music.  It’s why talented illusionists and magicians are so successful.  And it’s why most people can’t proof read their own work because the mind tends to fix words that are misspelled and remove words and letters in a word that are repeated.”

“Wow!” he said.  Nothing else.  Just wow.  And with that, we both went back to work on our respective pieces of art:  he with a new understanding of how to add colour to a tree when sketching with coloured pencils or painting and I with an even better appreciation of how wonderful it is to share time with my son in this quiet way.

M.T. Robison Relaxin' Under A Tree

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One Response to “Lewis and Me, and the Story of Tree”

  1. Matrix Says:

    I just checked out the original photo and compared it to your awesome sketch! Incredible work, Elyse! IMO, I think M. T. bears a bit of a resemblance to Keith Richards, too!

    Oh, BTW, I love your Dreamtime CD! I listen to it over and over and do not tire of it!


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