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Tree of Life – for all the DNA obsessed people

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I’ve been working on a highly textured sort of “over the top” tree of life painting.  It contains a lot of little details meant to evoke modern ideas about evolution and the origins of life.  It also includes soft double helical motifs, some explicit and some that are just evocative references to helices and twined helices in the paint structure.  Links to other posts on this work and the other work in the series are at the end of the post.

Here’s a late stage work in progress photo

autotroph ToL1

The  ribbon-like areas swirling up the tree trunk and in the branches were made using media in a pastry bag.  The different nozzles used in cake decorating also make different sized and shaped lines when acrylic gel medium is used instead of whipped cream (use a separate set of tools for cakes – mixing and matching not advised).  Heavy duty medium is solid enough to retain the ridges and ribbon shapes from the nozzles, and extruded shapes can be laid over in complex textures.  The gel will even bridge raised features with some air underneath it instead of sinking down to touch the canvas.  In this picture the gel is still only partly dried.  Many of the milky white areas will dry transparent and tinted (keep on scrolling for the dry finished picture, and you can compare)

A close up of the gel structures:

To finish this, I wanted to add two ideas.

The first was a better and more bubbly transition between the background areas on the bottom and the thick translucent sky and branch region at the top.  More small lenses and little retroreflective glass bubbles were added to accomplish this,  and I also added coarse alumina raised circles to suggest cellular things.  The alumina dries to a raised coarse rough sparkly black.  Some of the alumina circles have a single 3mm acrylic retroreflective sphere embedded in them, which makes me think of primitive cellular nuclei (not all cells have ’em).  Here’s a diffuse light shot of the finished painting,  where you can see the added features.  You can also see how the extruded media shapes dried.

The second idea was some suggestion of leaves.  Evolutionary branches and trunks are well and good, but the life forms are all out in the leaves.  There’s already a lot going on in the painting.  How can leaves fit in without making the work too busy or obliterating too much of the movement and texture already present?  I decided to use some of the retroreflective goodies I have on hand and create the eaves as a secret picture within a picture.  They are practically invisible under well-behaved diffuse light.  (They’re all over the painting in the picture above – can you see them?).  When light hits them through a point source or small area source, they’ll light up right before the viewer’s shadow crosses them.  Here they are all lit up at once

Other posts on the Tree of Life Series:

Exhibit “Glitz” at Annmarie Sculpture Park, Solomons, Maryland, Featuring Tree of Life 1

WIP Tree of Life 1

Tree of Life 1 finished

Tree of Life 2 WIP and finished

Tree of Life 3,4,5 WIP

Abstracted Oak and Birch Studies (drawings)

Evolutionary Tree (Drawing)

16 Responses

  1. Rachel Ann Klein
    |

    A perfectly wonderful work of art.. As a person who has done (more than a little) work with DNA, and who becomes excited about trees, and the special properties of materials – “Tree of Life” is unique and very uplifting. Oh, to have this on my Gallery wall…

    • nerdlypainter
      |

      Hi Rachel, I was actually planning to do a series of 10 to 15 of these. They’re kind of fun to do. Big ones, small ones, simple or complex. You used to paint some – want to come over and have a go at one? Wear old clothes. I still haven’t mastered the whole “neatness counts” thing. (Went to my first big scientific meeting in grad school with data glued to the seat of my slacks)

  2. Rachel Ann Klein
    |

    A perfectly wonderful work of art.. As a person who has done (more than a little) work with DNA, and who becomes excited about trees, and the special properties of materials – “Tree of Life” is unique and very uplifting. Oh, to have this on my Gallery wall…

    • nerdlypainter
      |

      Hi Rachel, I was actually planning to do a series of 10 to 15 of these. They’re kind of fun to do. Big ones, small ones, simple or complex. You used to paint some – want to come over and have a go at one? Wear old clothes. I still haven’t mastered the whole “neatness counts” thing. (Went to my first big scientific meeting in grad school with data glued to the seat of my slacks)

  3. […] The tree of life painting that I recently completed is part of a series exploring the tree motif as a way to portray networks and ecological order. The tree motif is very abstracted and broken up in some of these, for example “Out of Balance”.  “Dreams of Awakened Souls” has clear organic plant-like forms, while “Keystone” features a definite tree shape, but the details resemble xylem and phloem microscopic structures rather than twigs and bark. […]

  4. […] The tree of life painting that I recently completed is part of a series exploring the tree motif as a way to portray networks and ecological order. The tree motif is very abstracted and broken up in some of these, for example “Out of Balance”.  “Dreams of Awakened Souls” has clear organic plant-like forms, while “Keystone” features a definite tree shape, but the details resemble xylem and phloem microscopic structures rather than twigs and bark. […]

  5. […] had a painting accepted into an exhibit called “Glitz” at the Annmarie Garden in Solomons, Maryland. […]

  6. […] had a painting accepted into an exhibit called “Glitz” at the Annmarie Garden in Solomons, Maryland. […]

  7. […] Tree of Life – for all the DNA obsessed People […]

  8. […] Tree of Life – for all the DNA obsessed People […]

  9. […] Tree of Life 1 finished […]

  10. […] Tree of Life 1 finished […]

  11. Lachlan
    |

    Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with
    my facebook group? There’s a lot of people
    that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me
    know. Cheers

    • nerdlypainter
      |

      Sure as long as there’s a link and you mention the Nerdly Painter – and thanks

  12. Lachlan
    |

    Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with
    my facebook group? There’s a lot of people
    that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me
    know. Cheers

    • nerdlypainter
      |

      Sure as long as there’s a link and you mention the Nerdly Painter – and thanks