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Tree of Jesse/Tree of Life Painting

By April 3, 2023February 15th, 2024Art and Faith, Exhibits and Events, Painting

Advent Tree of Jesse to Easter Tree of Life

The “Tree of Jesse/Tree of Life” painting which I began during Advent is complete in time for Easter! I began the painting during my Advent exhibit “Picturing Mary” at HeART Gallery in Toledo was live painting on Friday evenings during December. I worked through the beginning stages of a painting which will become part of the collection of St. Paul’s Lutheran which hosts HeART Gallery. The painting  will be hung at Easter 2023 in the church.

I always enjoy beginning a painting. The most exciting time to watch a painting is in the first few hours, when the painting moves from blank canvas to telling a story and revealing an image. The last few hours are often not as exciting, as small adjustments in color and tonality bring it to completion.

Collaborating on the Tree Theme

I met with the pastor and Arts Committee at St. Paul’s to determine the subject matter of the painting. We started with the theme of the Tree of Jesse, since the exhibit would occur during Advent. The committee also really liked my architecture/passageway paintings, so we began to look for ways to incorporate architecture. During our conversation we determined the painting would contain a dead tree, an archway and three figures.  I then created a series of sketches for them to look at with varying numbers of figures, angles, and styles of architecture (Roman arch vs. Gothic, etc).


Once the committee determined which sketches appealed to them, I created a larger sketch. I then gathered my materials and prepared to begin the painting as part of the Nativity Festival events at St. Paul’s!

I worked for three Friday evenings, 2-3 hours each week to carefully map out the architecture and the figures in an underpainting. An underpainting deals only with light and dark, not color. Its primary purpose is to establish the composition relationships. Although I accomplished so much by the end of the three Friday evenings, I still had a great deal to do back in the studio.

Architecture Inspiration

There are two main changes between the final painting and the underpainting/”first draft”. First is the size of the figures, which I diminished in size towards the end of the painting process. The figures also became much more defined and less generalized as I worked on the painting in my studio. The second big change was the manner in which I refined the architecture. I decided to take as my inspriation the entry passage to St. Paul’s church as there is some beautiful ribbed vaulting. I used the capitals and bases of the columns in that passageway as my models for the painting’s architecture.

Entry Passage to St. Paul’s Lutheran, Toledo OH.


Entry Passage to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Toledo OH

Advent Tree of Jesse to Easter Tree of Life

The vine in the foreground represents the tree of Jesse. Isaiah speaks of the dead stump out of which will come the hope of salvation for the people of Israel. ( “A shoot shall spring from the stump of Jesse, and a Branch from his roots will bear fruit.” Isaiah 11:1 NASB). In the distance, in the light beyond the passageway, we see a green tree. This tree symbolizes the tree of life from Revelation, a symbol of healing and resurrection. It is appropriate then that this painting which was begun during Advent will be hung just before Easter.

The three figures represent  those Christians present on earth today. Often called “the pilgrim church” or the “church militant”, those who follow Christ today are walking towards the final light of the resurrection but still fighting against darkness and shadows. They can also be read a representation of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, whose eyes are suddenly opened to the presence of Christ in their midst.

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