It was the summer of 1989. I graduated cosmetology school (hair school as we called back then) in March and was working at SuperCuts honing my skills and soaking up all the free education they offered. I lived in Wichita, Ks. I just moved into my own apartment in June. It was a renovated 3 story Hotel and I lived in a studio on the third floor and paid $175 a month. I was happy.
I was working full-time, had my own apartment and took the bus to work. My apartment building was just a few blocks from the river that ran through the middle of Downtown Wichita. I felt like I was getting settled in and it was time to start drawing again. About 3 months into my 6 month lease there was a leak in my studio roof and it rained on my drawing table I had set up. I talked to the landlord-who by the way was a fabulous gay friendly girl with dark hair and was very funny- she gave me a one bedroom on the second floor as compensation.
I am settled in again, my cozy one bedroom with no furniture except my daybed and warped drawing board. It was an open concept layout. As you walk into the front door it was open to my living, dining and kitchen. Straight ahead was a wall with narrow windows on each side. To the left was about 2 foot of space and to the right was my walled kitchen and the door to the bedroom and bath. I placed my daybed against the wall in between the windows. There was nothing in my bedroom but a small dresser.
I am now ready to draw something. I wanted something different from my usual tools, paper and pencils. So I bought 3 stretched canvases. Two of them measured 3 ft by 1 ft. the third, was a 10 by 12 inches. I laid them on the floor in front of me and asked myself out loud “WHAT DO I SEE?”
A tree trunk came to mind. Not the whole tree, just the trunk part. I thought “OK cool, I’ll draw a tree trunk” I positioned the canvas to start drawing length wise and grabbed my gel black ink pen and started drawing. If you don’t know anything about an artist canvas, then let me tell you, it’s very textured. So getting a smooth line on it is impossible. But that was OK because I was drawing a tree, they’re not smooth either.
I had no idea what it was going to look like or how big, I was just drawing a tree trunk. I went about my daily life and would draw in my spare time. I don’t recall having a TV. But I do remember listening to Hiroshima, Enya on my Walkman cassette player and laying flat on my back with the lights out and candles lit and just meditating and breathing. I really had no idea what I was doing, it just felt right at the time.
612 E. Douglas, Wichita, Ks. 67202
I found this image courtesy of Google Earth. Looks like they are still renting out as apartments. I looked at their site and prices have gone up. A studio starts at $599. And of course they are completely remodeled.
After I finished the tree trunk I thought “Now what?” I used the second canvas and turned it length wise parallel to the first piece and started on the branches of the tree. Fast forward a few more months and it’s time time top it off. A total of nine months later and after multiple ink pens I now had a finished drawing. I had completed my first tryptic art piece.
So that is how I started drawing trees. All three canvases were completed I later sold it for $275. I hope it’s doing well.
As I continued to draw my trees, I was determined to only draw with ink on canvas and paper. As an artist of any kind, you will get people that will offer suggestions all the time. I was reluctant to take any of them. I continued to draw in black and white for years. Until one day I looked at my work and thought, “wow this is really old school” I started experimenting with other techniques.
There you have it. My exciting story of how I started drawing trees. Now here it is September of 2020 and I am still drawing trees, only now they are a bit more colorful. I now paint with acrylics and use colored inks as well. I play with texture, like a home made paste with baking soda, glue and white liquid acrylic paint. Here are some examples.
Honestly, I am feeling like this took way too long to write and this is where I tend to just drop off with my stories. But, before I go, Let me tell you something. I sometimes look at my drawings and think “Holy shit! did I do that?” I think I could have gone to school and improved my skills a lot better then being stubborn and thinking I should be able to do it naturally without structure and instruction but I haven’t. So here I am, doing more intentional drawing and creating then I ever have. And I am happy.