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I have loved this little tree for many years. Madrones are beautiful trees with red, exfoliating bark, elegant twisting branches, and bright green foliage. They are truly wild things: difficult to cultivate, they resent being transplanted and will sicken when watered with treated city water. Madrones have to be appreciated as and where encountered, on their own terms.
This particular madrone inhabited the edge of a scenic pull-out in Big Bend National Park. I always looked forward to sighting my old friend as I neared the end of my 10 hour drive from Austin to Big Bend. Because I only make it to the park every year or two I was not there to witness its final struggle as another victim of the Texas drought.
Its dead remains, still standing in the spot by the pull-out, were a shock to me when I visited in the fall of 2012. Even in death the tree was an elegant natural sculpture, standing as a decaying witness to the losses of drought and climate change. Friends who have recently visited the park tell me it is still standing there, quietly disintegrating into the landscape.
The image of the Dead Madrone finally made its way into a painting in the fall of 2013. Recently, I have finished a second Dead Madrone, and a third is in progress.
Update: the third painting , "The Dead Madrone III" has been completed.
This fall I took a four day workshop from Kris Parins , an artist whose work I first saw in Watercolor Artist Magazine. In addition to the traditional brush, Kris uses pouring as a way to add watercolor paint to paper. I like to take workshops whenever I can--each teacher has helped me advance faster than I ever could alone. Kris is a very giving and patient teacher. The following images illustrate one of my first poured watercolor paintings in the process of being "born". To see more of Kris Parins art, see her website at: http://kris-parins.artistwebsites.com/news.html
3. The next step was to draw my picture onto 140lb Arches cold press watercolor paper, that had been pre-stretched onto gatorboard. It is very difficult to control the colors on a poured painting, unless the paper is either heavy (300 lb or more), or stretched. The drawing on the paper works best if not very detailed. Any areas that are to remain white need to be clearly indicated. When Kris draws on her watercolor paper, She often uses transfer paper and a large "master" image, and only initially draws in the areas that will remain white. I tend to draw the whole thing, which requires me to be very careful about indicating the white areas.
Marsha Reeves is a watercolor painter living in Austin, Texas