New Series: Happy Little Trees

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll notice that my feed has been filling up with colorful tree paintings lately. I've been working on a new series in my studio for the past week. I'm calling it my "Happy Little Trees" series. They're fun to make and I'm enjoying playing with colors, layers, and textures. A bit more whimsical than some of my more serious work but tons of fun to make and they are being received well by friends and family. I'm busy working in my studio to get ready for my upcoming solo show at Lumin Studios gallery in Tumalo, OR on October 11, 2014 from 1pm-4pm. There will be lots of paintings available for sale as well as some cards and prints. 

I also have a new Facebook page for my art, MaryLea Harris ART so you can see what I'm making in the studio and see where my work is on display! 



"Pilgrimage" Diptych, MaryLea Harris, Acrylic on Canvas, 40" x 60"

My fourth class in the M.I.S. program was painting with John Figura. It was in this course I finally began to develop a focused body of work. I grew up in a neighborhood called Bellevue Forest, a community know for its surrounding oak, tulip poplar, sugar gum maple, cherry, and beech trees. My home and studio are also surrounded by woods and open fields. These pastoral and arboreal environments have had a tremendous impact on my work. 

I focus on trees in my painting and consider my subject matter to be treescapes as opposed to landscapes in the traditional sense. I regard them as hybrids: a process using tree sketches and photos combined with brightly colored backgrounds created by layering paint and scraping it with those fake plastic credit cards that come in the mail. These cards are wonderful tools not only for scraping paint but also serve as an ironic reminder of our consumer-driven society and how quickly we replace nature with man-made materials. 

My treescapes have three visual components that connect them: calling attention to detail by showing natural subject matter in its still state, flattening the image into a silhouette, and introducing fluid lines. I started my series of treescapes working on 30"x40" canvases and was encouraged by Figura to work bigger. By combining two 30"x40" canvases I created a diptych which led to building my own large-scale canvases which were much more satisfying on which to work. 

"Spiritual Sojourn" MaryLea Harris, Acrylic on Canvas, 48" x 72"

As a former printmaker, I admire and am influenced by Japanese Ukyo-e (woodblock) prints for their large flat areas of color and their use of bold outlines. These prints were most prolific during the early 1600s through the late 1800s and capture nature in its still state while emphasizing beauty. I flattened my trees into simplified silhouettes and used contrasting color fields to achieve this look in my own paintings. My favorite season is winter when the bare branches are silhouetted against the sky and layered with snow and ice. This influence is most obvious in the painting Spiritual Sojourn. It has the Asian aesthetic of "less is more" and was a very spiritual painting for me to create. 

Eventually, I asked myself how I could push the envelope further and thought of how Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) and Jasper John (b.1930) used unorthodox painting devices. I created my painting Timberline by pouring and throwing paint on a black gessoed-canvas, and by using a tree branch as my paintbrush to create the illusion of woods. 

"Timberline" MaryLea Harris, Acrylic on Canvas, 48" x 72"


After experimenting in my first computer transfer class followed by a painting class, I became interested in combining the two mediums. I discovered that the layered imagery of contemporary artist Lynne Perrella's assemblages and collages and have a great deal in common with my monoprints from my undergraduate work. Her Jasper Johns-like pieces inspired me to merge my painting and computer transfers in any way that I could imagine. 

During an independent study with Bob Worthy I created a few canvases combining painting and transfers. The most successful one is The Journey Home because it fully incorporates my interests in layering both content and media. This textured canvas combines tea-dyed handmade paper with computer emulsion transfers. This led to a new series based upon this piece. 

The Journey Home, MaryLea Harris, Mixed-Media on Canvas, 15" x 30"

I also created a series of emulsion transfers with photos of trees I took in the woods behind my home. This series sold at my Path is a Circle show to a private collector in 2006. 

Arboreal Suggestion, MaryLea Harris 
Emulsion Transfer A/P, 2006 12 " x 12" (Private Collection)

Sunrise, Sunset Trees, MaryLea Harris 
Emulsion Transfer A/P, 2006 12 " x 12" (Private Collection)

Transparent Trees 2, MaryLea Harris 
Emulsion Transfer A/P, 2006 12 " x 12" (Private Collection)

Transparent Trees 1, MaryLea Harris 
Emulsion Transfer A/P, 2006 12 " x 12" (Private Collection)