Planting trees

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Planting a tree can be hard work and with it comes the belief that the effort exerted will yield benefits. A tree will add beauty to the world, shade in the summer, color in the autumn, rest in the winter, and joy in the spring. Sometimes trees are planted as a memorial, an enduring legacy of someone or something important. Joseph Orr believes in planting trees, lots of them…well, not necessarily the kind of tree you’re thinking of, but trees within the art world.

One of the trees he planted in 1990, along with three others, was the founding of the National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society (NOAPS). What began as a mere sapling has today become one of the most important and influential art organizations in America. (Click images to enlarge)

Joseph Orr


Joseph Orr is the adopted son of Fremont and Leona. Born in Japan in the late 1940’s, his early years were spent as the child of a military family with all its associated relocation assignments. When his father retired from the military and moved to Missouri, Joe eventually followed suit after completing a year of college in California. Before long he was working at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City. Working at the card folding machine and seeing all the beautiful art created by the Hallmark artists, sparked his interest in creating some art himself. That spark became a planted tree that has resulted in hundreds of paintings beautifying homes and offices across the United States.

Orr was an early champion of acrylic, promoting its use and believing it to be a fine art medium, every bit as viable as oil…so the founding of NOAPS.

“Turquoise Summer” – 24″ x 30″ – Acrylic


You’re probably asking yourself, “John, what’s your point, where is this going?” Well, it all began when reading Joe’s recent Newsletter and an article he wrote titled, “Basking in the Shade of Trees Planted Long Ago.” It is so good, insightful, well written and thought provoking, I want to share it with you. As artists, we are all planting trees. We may not live to see the full results of those plantings, but let’s make sure the trees we do plant are of excellent and enduring quality.

You’ll enjoy Joe’s article.


Basking in the Shade of Trees Planted Long Ago

by Joseph Orr

For no reason, other than needing an escape from reality, I’ve found myself charmed by a tv show called “After Life”. Generally, I feel like TV is short for ’Terminally Vapid’ but now and then little gems shine through. In one scene the main character is sitting on a bench with a lady who is older than he. They are both currently in the same life situation so have become each other’s support team, of sorts. In response to his lament she says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees, the shade of which they know they will never sit in.” I thought ‘WOW’. It got me thinking about how many artists of the past lay the foundation for future schools of thought or disciplines without ever being art stars themselves. It brings to mind painters known as part of the Barbizon School. People familiar with the current art world celebrate the Impressionist Movement as the beginning of landscape painting as we are familiar with today. However, the truth is, it was the painters of the Barbizon School who started the idea of painting amid the landscape in the early 1800’s. Their audacity in venturing away from tradition was the springboard for the great movement toward  painting the landscape directly from nature itself. The resulting works illustrated their study of striking light effects and their ability to capture atmospheric immediacy. These paintings paved the way for Impressionism. Generations before had prized the academics of diligent study and studio training. Exhibitions and commission monies valued paintings of historic subject matter and portraits. Even if an artist painted scenes of the landscape he/she had to temper their repertoire with classical, mythological or biblical settings to ensure inclusion among their peers and suitors.

“Reaching for Summer” – 16″ x 20″ – Acrylic


An area, only a short train trip from Paris called Barbizon, was a magnet for artists of like mind who found the ideal environment and living conditions to bring landscape painting to new heights. These artists focused mostly on subjects of nature which were considered revolutionary at the time. They also used and promoted technical innovations that artists today are still trying to grasp and master…one being Plein Air painting. Instead of sketching a scene on location and returning to the studio to compose a rigid landscape, the Barbizon painter brought easel and canvas out into the landscape determined to capture the scene in front of him/her. It must have been a challenge at first but they mastered the art of expressing intensity of light and shadow on the hills and trees before their eyes. Their objective was to create a composition in which the viewer had the feeling of being there, at that place, beside them. An occasional rural setting or village scene served to underscore the sensation of reality. The immediacy of painting outdoors necessitated the use of subdued palettes and  just a suggestion of detail.

“A Regal Day” – 12″ x 12″ – Acrylic


The techniques and approaches to painting that are in use today are like trees that were planted by artists generations ago. Thanks to them, landscape painters now carry the knowledge and enjoy the shade from the trees they planted. Therefore, it is incumbent on all of us, in any profession or station in life to keep planting trees.

Thank you, Joseph Orr.


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