Story behind the art of Ingrid Finnan

 
Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens
The Third New York Botanical Garden Triennial
 

Northern Red Oak

Quercus rubra
New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York
 

In early Fall of 2016, I found a little twig of the Northern Red Oak with six leaves and one acorn on the ground, apparently a casualty of a heavy wind or twig pruner insects. The specimen tells me it comes from a tree that must be at least 25 years of age to be able to produce an acorn, which also only happens every 2 to 5 years. The Northern Red Oak is a native tree that is much admired for providing excellent shade, a beautiful crown, and bright red to deep russet leaves in the fall. The wood has many uses from furniture production to railroad ties. The acorns provide an excellent food for animals.

The specimen came with a ready made composition. Complications for me arose only with the addition of a slightly ombré background color and shadows cast by the acorn, stems and leaves. I hope this extra effort takes the piece from a simple study to a more interesting level. It is painted in oil on paper.

 

Snake Branch Spruce 

Picea abies ‘Virgata’
New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York
 

I’ve always wanted to paint a conifer, so with the upcoming Out of the Woods exhibition in mind, a walk through the New York Botanical Garden’s Benenson Ornamental Conifers was in order. I came upon what can only be described as the “unusual” Snake Branch Spruce at the optimum time in May when the new bright green growth contrasted with the darker green older growth. I was immediately engaged by it. In my research, I found that the NYBG describes the tree as having “dangling, fringe like limbs” with few lateral branches. At ground level, I could enter a “tent” encircled by a curtain of hanging branches. Once you know this tree, it will always be immediately recognizable. 

Further research taught me that the tree, a native of Norway, is an “arboreal oddity.” This specimen is over 90 years old, transplanted along with 200 conifer specimen trees in the late 1940s from the estate of the tree collector, Robert H. Montgomery, in CosCob, Connecticut. Robert Swett in his book, “New York City Trees,” describes the Snake Branch Spruce as “one of the iconic trees of New York City.”

It was a challenge to paint what I saw at eye level - to contrast the new growth with the old growth both in the needles and the sinuous hanging branches and to approximate depth in the “curtain.” Fortunately, the Garden is only a 15 minute drive from my home for additional further study!  Painting in oil on paper made it possible for me to execute this composition that required overpainting both of needles and branches.

Of additional note, my painting, along with other ASBA works, is reproduced in the July/August, 2017 edition of “Fine Art Connoisseur” in an article by Kelly Compton, “A Garden of Artistry Grows.” 

 
 
 
Read more about this artist’s work: 20th Annual International

 

  • © 2016 Ingrid Finnan
    Northern Red Oak
    Quercus rubra
    Oil on paper
    10.5" x 10.5"
  • © 2016 Ingrid Finnan
    Snake Branch Spruce
    Picea abies ‘Virgata’
    Oil on paper
    13.5" x 10.5"