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View Trees Like an Artist

Discover a new world outside of color by appreciating the form and structure of trees. Silhouettes offer the perfect opportunity.

 a grove of towering pines

". . . in all nature, for instance in trees, I see expression and soul . . . ." -- Vincent van Gogh

You don't have to be a nature lover to notice trees when they're draped in spring flowers or fall foliage. The rest of the year? Well, it depends on your frame of mind.

Are you the hurried homeowner who only notices trees when there's raking to be done or storm debris to be picked up? Or do you see the world through the eyes and imagination of an artist?

Artists aren't all about color and vibrancy. No, the fleeting fanfare of burgeoning flowers and changing foliage doesn't distract them as much as it does the rest of us. They go deeper, searching, like van Gogh, for expression and soul.

 trees seen against a sunset

One way to see trees through an artist's eye is to study silhouettes. Color is marginalized -- sometimes even nonexistent -- allowing the spotlight to fall on shape and structure. It's like the star of the show easing into the background so the supporting cast can have a go at it.

 

 tree silhouettes against skyline

There's nothing like a skyline, to isolate the shape of a tree. No color to dazzle, no flowers to intoxicate. It's all about form. And, without distractions, it's easier to enjoy the diversity of plant shapes, too.

trees in the foreground, plane in the background

Tree silhouettes are often dramatic, as in the scene. All of a sudden, the spruce trees are dominant and the jet cruising through the afternoon skies is almost an afterthought. It's an unusual perspective that immediately brings visual interest.

 

trees accompany the Wisconsin State Capitol

Sometimes trees set a tone, like these oaks. Paired with the Wisconsin State Capitol Building and set against brightly lit clouds, they bring an aura of history and permanence. It's the perfect complement to such a stately structure.

a dead spruce tree

One type of tree that both artists and non-artists tend to appreciate for its form is the needled evergreen. Many are pyramidal and easily stand out from a distance. Even in death, this spruce tree, has a graceful profile.

  closeup of tree silhouette

As for deciduous trees, their structure is best appreciated when dormant. Note the intricate branching pattern of this tree, which is only apparent after leaves have fallen. Its stark look is particularly captivating against a sunset.

You can enjoy tree silhouettes any time, especially in the dead of winter when there's little else to look at. Look beyond color and let your artist's eye find the possibilities.

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