Gumbo Limbo, 16x20" oil, ©Diane Mannion
"Never thought painting a tree would be so difficult," I said.
"It's not just any tree," John said. "It's a Gumbo Limbo!"
His words made me redouble my effort. And Mary Erickson's, from my recent trip to Maine echoed as I worked: "Go back and observe..."
After painting and scraping, wiping out and changing, I was determined to capture the feeling of this particular tree. A favorite painting spot at the Placida Fishery, it's an ideal place to work from the hatchback of my car, shady and protected from rain showers.
I did several small plein air studies; this painting is the studio version. Also relied on photo reference, visual memory, and my illustrator's imagination. Allowed myself to overwork as much as I pleased while also letting areas of light and color blur and remain loose.
The gumbo limbo is sometimes called the tourist tree because of it's unique, reddish color resembling the peeling skin of sunburnt tourists. It's wood is traditionally used for building carousel horses in the US! It's leaves and resin have been used to treat for gout, and tests are underway for arthritis.
Also loved by birds and other critters for it's fruit. While I was painting, a squirrel scampered up and down the tree. Snapped a reference photo as he posed in a perfect spot! Painted him in as a finishing touch that pulled the painting together. BUT he also had to be repainted when John said my first version looked like a pony.