A Tree Grows in Grayslake

Bur Oak Silhouette (1)     Bur Oak Silhouette


There is something so deeply satisfying about a grand old open-growth bur oak tree, standing there against the horizon. I see this one nearly every day as I drive past it, and thank God and the forest preserve district that it didn’t fall victim to developers. I’ve wanted to paint it for some time, and probably will do another from a closer vantage point. But when I saw this sky, I though the two would work perfectly to convey the power and spaciousness of nature. Often my paintings take weeks to months to complete, but this one came together in just a few sessions over the course of a week.


  1. Reply

    This is wonderful.
    There are solitary oaks like this, in the Genesee Valley (in NY), some over 200 years old, and this painting reminds me of walking on the river flats there, with the clouds blowing in from the west. I really love this!

  2. Reply

    I love finding solitary trees, whether lovely oaks as yours, other shapely trees or even gnarly misshapen ones. But here in New England the forests dominate the natural settings so it’s more a case of finding some way to separate them from their surroundings. My next post will be an effort in that direction.
    I enjoy the colors of your sky and the similarity of shapes with the tree and clouds.The lower sky reminds me of the evening creamy yellow that Homer often portrayed at the shore.

    • Reply

      Oh, he did, didn’t he? I knew it was reminding me of something. I love solitary trees, too but I also adore thick forest. You did a glorious job of separating out the tree in your foggy post.

  3. Reply

    The sky and the clouds are a lovely backdrop for the tree silhouette. Wish I had that view on my way home. As Steve writes, it’s hard to find a lone tree in the New England landscape. For a lone oak, I go the California coastal hills, where I get to visit fairly often.

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  5. Reply

    This is one of those times when you up there and we down here get to share a species, given that Quercus macrocarpa grows in central Texas. While you see yours almost every day, I rarely encounter a bur oak here, most likely because this is the southern end of its range.

    When you wrote that “I’ve wanted to paint it for some time,” my literal mind imagined you moving a big paint brush up and down the tree’s trunk.

  6. Reply

    There’s something about seeing a lone tree against a spreading horizon that I find compelling, and you’ve captured the experience wonderfully well. I’m struck by the contrast between the solidity of the tree, rooted to its ground, and the ephemeral clouds. At first, your choice of colors surprised me, but the more I looked, the more I thought they were just right.

    I have a large bowl filled with bur oak acorns from a tree in Council Grove, Kansas. That tree dates to 1776, more or less, and it’s almost as splendid as yours. The one disadvantage it suffers is being in the middle of town. Still, it’s a great tree, and I’m glad to have the acorns as a remembrance of it. Now, you have your painting as a remembrance of your tree — and perhaps some acorns, too.

    • Reply

      It is a mast year, so it might be a good idea to go collect some. For some reason oaks are not regenerating on their own here so the forest preserve plants seedlings every year. We have quite a few wonderful old oaks in our county, but they are all the same age and so one sad day in the not too distant future we will have lost them all. Already some are down come spring.

  7. Reply

    Melissa… this is wonderful! There is just ‘something’ about a lonely oak and you’ve captured it so well! You reminded me of the many oaks like that in some of the hills in northern California. I had one photograph that turned out pretty well, but others I tried, not so much! That was back in the days when shooting landscapes was still relatively new for me.

  8. Reply

    Thank you Gunta! You’re right, there is something about a lone oak standing out there, holding up its end of the world. Like you I’ve made a few stabs at capturing this and haven’t been happy with the results. You’ve certainly mastered shooting landscapes now!

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