Happy Little (Palm) Trees

Painting and drawing aren’t mediums I tend to practice as often as writing and music, but nevertheless, I enjoy them and they are apart of my time at the moment. I only recently decided to get back into them since I’ve had the time and since my sister also wanted to dabble in painting, the opportunity just kinda arose. This post will only focus on painting and I will make a new post about my drawings later.

Armed with some episodes of Bob Ross and the plethora of paintbrushes which we bought last time we went through a painting phase, we started doing some landscapes. While my sister went for the scenic mountains and happy little trees approach – and she did well on them, they are very lovely – I decided to try out a seascape after finding a couple episodes of the Joy of Painting which took a break from the forest and mountain formula. I love the ocean, lakes, ponds, I just love water, the way it flows, the life that it holds, so if I was gonna paint nature, I was gonna make the ocean the star of the show. Here’s the first seascape I made about a month ago:


There are some water droplets in the clouds, the trees are a bit rough and the pelicans are kinda awkward, but I decided to start off with a pacific kind of scene. I don’t care for how the waves in the water turned out, but I still just love the colour and how it gets lighter towards the bottom edge. Not bad for a first painting though. Next I went on to make these:

I attempted another seascape with a more tropical theme, and decided to mix with the colours a bit more, adding multiple colours to one line – this shows most in the clouds. I came upon an episode of the Joy of Painting in which Bob hosted artist Ben Stahl, who painted a beautiful portrait which I absolutely loved. Watching this episode is what got me interested in mixing colours around and layering up colours instead of going the realism route.


After those, I found an old painting that I had started and never finished. I had attempted to do a kind of geometric abstract piece, so I decided to try using oil paints for the first time. I felt like oil paints might create a certain richness to what might otherwise be a boring painting. I enjoy painting abstracts, but I never know how I feel about them when I am finished. It’s hard to tell if they are good or not, but if richness is what I was going for, I think I accomplished that.

Lastly, we had a big canvas hanging around the house and I really wanted to paint another seascape with vibrant colours and a tropical feel, and so I went ahead and painted this next:


It is definitely the piece I am most proud of. It has everything I love in a painting. This picture doesn’t display it in the best lighting, but I love the contrast between the colourful sky and the black shadowed palm trees, the reflections in the water, the sea turtles swimming at the bottom showing a hint of life. I love this piece a lot and I’m going to be hanging it up in my room in the near future.

So, this was the last piece I made. Now for inspirations:

I have long been inspired by the pop art, eye-catchiness and personalities surrounding the inimitable Andy Warhol. I think it is his work which has given me such a strong love of vibrancy, blocked colours, and a slight abstractism. Here are some works which I feel inspired some of my paintings.

  1. “Mick Jagger” (ca 1975)
  2. “Untitled (Pink Rose)” (ca 1955)
  3. “Heart” (ca 1982)

I think I related to Warhol because of the way celebrity culture inspired him. Though I’m not particularly fond of mainstream celebrity culture, something about idolizing someone and being inspired by their essence, their style, their beliefs – even if they are created or exaggerated as a persona –  can be so intoxicating. Especially when it comes to musicians, which Andy was no stranger to, because you begin to feel as if you know someone through their music. Sure, you may not know them personally but a lot of a person comes out in their art: their vibe, their way of thinking, of putting chords and notes together, the tone in the voice of a singer singing a sad song, or a happy, or angry song. It’s the perfect reference for art because it creates images in your head without showing you what to see.

It’s different with Warhol: it’s about being iconic. It’s about taking that recognizable face and letting it speak for itself. He doesn’t try to interpret anything, he just shows us the person as they are. It can seem superficial at first glance, but I think the superficiality is just to draw people in. It’s what the person represents and means to someone that will keep someone interested.

Anyways, I’d like to move on to another artist whose style broke the mold: Frida Kahlo. I think a lot of artists, of all sorts, relate so well to Frida’s art because, at its root, it is about loneliness. It is about the self, and about pain, but also loneliness. Often, Kahlo herself is the subject of her paintings and often they show her seemingly in the middle of nowhere, perhaps in a vast, empty desert of sorts. I think that alone demonstrates an immense solitude.

  1. “The Two Fridas” (ca 1939)
  2. Kahlo painting “The Two Fridas” in her studio
  3. “Henry Ford Hospital” (ca 1932)
  4. “The Broken Column” (ca 1944)

Kahlo’s paintings speak for themselves, and they do so very loudly – fitting for a woman who lived so unapologetically as herself. These paintings don’t just show you the pain in her life, they grab you and make you feel it. Though the paintings are very surreal, there is something very realistic about them. The pain is real. The loneliness is real. And those are the things illustrated. In a way, I find her paintings more real than even painters who spend a lifetime trying to paint photo-realistically.

I feel like her art is something I aspire to, to make others feel so strongly that they are nearly feeling the emotion in the art. It’s a long term goal for me, and I have no smaller steps to get there and achieve it really aside from just keep creating. Just keep making things. I don’t know how much painting I will do in the near future, but this is something I aspire to in all mediums I dabble in. This is a goal I have in my music and writing as well. I truly believe that this is the height of art and creativity: using our loneliness to help make others feel, perhaps, a little less lonely.


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