Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Bark, bark, bark?

Barking up the wrong tree?

This expression undoubtedly comes from watching hunting dogs barking at the base of a tree that they mistakenly think hides their prey. Happily the wily prey has left the tree and escaped in another direction.

It is generally used to mean one is making a mistake or misdirecting one's energies or attention.

The squirrel above is using a different tactic though: that if one stays absolutely still one becomes invisible. It was handy for me because it allowed me to get a good picture.

Bark has many meanings:
It is the sound uttered by a dog, but also a sound such as harsh cough or an abrupt, impatient or angry exclamation. Bark, from old English word beorcan and middle English word Berken, has probably given rise to the expression "His/her bark is worse than his/her bite".

Bark, or barque, (from the Middle English word barke, or Old French word barque for boat) is also a sailing ship with from three to five square rigged masts or a small vessel propelled by oars or sails.

But it is also the tough protective coating on the trunks, branches and roots of trees and other woody plants; the outer bark is mainly dead tissue that protects the tree from heat, cold, insects, and other dangers but also allows the tree to breathe.  This bark is a middle English word from Old Norse word borke.

It is the bark of trees that I am focusing on today, it is not only protective but also offers a wide variety of colours, shapes and textures.

We didn't have a lot of snow this winter (is it too soon to brag about that?) but here I caught a little on a tree in the park.

The spreading arms of a tree on a cool January day.

Bark of a Horse chestnut tree, curling and peeling.

I loved the shapes of this bark and the interesting shadows created by the sunshine.

A beautiful silvery colour, and delicate layers here:

Pine tree with its thick bark and, below, a pinecone (slightly off topic).

This is the puzzle-like bark of a Willow Tree. I see a face in the second one.

The flaky red bark of the Arbutus tree (the tree in front) and another tree "face".

Extracts of bark have been used for traditional medicines and tonics, tanning leather and dyeing fabrics. The strong fibres known as bast can be used for making rope and thin layers of Birch Bark are used for the iconic Canadian Birch bark canoe as well as for shelters. Commercial products such as cork, cinnamon, quinine and aspirin are all bark or made from bark.

This week I started with an old adage about barking up a tree and a picture of a squirrel and will leave you with another of each: 
"Don't keep a dog and bark yourself."

Meaning don't pay someone to do a job and then do it yourself, or interfere to the extent that they can't do the job.

I have been slowly making progress on a painting of poppies; you may recall that I "poured" the background colour. It is quite large, 14" X 21", and is a watercolour. Below is a picture after the "pour" is dry and the masking fluid is removed and then three pictures showing details of parts of it, I hope to have it finished by next week.

I have finished another  watercolour of crocuses too, and am happy with this one:

Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog, and Happy Whimsy Wednesday, until next time ......


  1. so beautiful shots Gillian,
    love barks which are like paintings !

  2. Love your study of the various barks. I think I'll borrow that idea for a future post on my blog. :))

    I'm amazed the squirrel stayed still. The ones in my area always seem in such a hurry!

  3. i do really like your crocuses! :)

    and your ADORABLE squirrel! and i LOVE trees and their most interesting textures and colors. really nice!

  4. Great photo subject on tree barks. I am fascinated by trees with the varied textures they have. Your poppies paintings are stunning.

  5. Enjoying your bark collection!

  6. I love the bark on the older trees. And, your paintings, they are exquisite, thanks Gillian.

  7. You know how I love textures.. particularly tree bark. And squirrels are among my favourite critters. Top this off with your lovely painting.. sigh-worthy.

  8. I love your photography as usual it makes me take a second look at things. Your poppies are coming along really well, they just seem to lift right out of the page. It is a fun way to creat isn't it? But amazing how long it takes to really develop the picture.

  9. I smiled reading your post. My dog often barks at what he thinks is there and often he's wrong. He actually loved gophers and so when he sees movement on the ground he'll bark, but it's not always a gopher.

  10. Your paintings really are amazing.. You are so talented.. I enjoyed see all your photos..

    Hugs, Linda

  11. Wonderful post Gillian! Love the texture of the various barks and fun to read about the word. Your painting technique is interesting too! The beginning is as wonderful as the later stages. You make the poppies seem so alive and lush! Really Beautiful!!

  12. Lovely series of shots and textures. The crocuses and paintings are gorgeous. Wonderful post, have a great weekend!

  13. I love your second photo of the sow on the lichen/moss. It looks like the tree is wearing a wooly coat! Looking forward to seeing it completed.

    Your watercolour of the poppies is magnificent. The flowers appear almost 3D, like water lilies rising above the lily pads.

  14. wonderful shots. i envy the sunshine lol. love your paintings too. thanks for always visiting my blog and your compliments :)

  15. Hi Gillian,

    I so often am mesmerized by tree bark patterns, and loved these photographs. In the picture above the one with the face, I see a snake, curled up, with its head pointing down. Loved your motionless squirrel too, and also the progression of poppy paintings. As always, a post full of beauty and fascinating observations.

  16. Your latest artworks are absolutely magnificent. Makes me wish for spring more and more.

  17. ....your paintings are gorgeous, and I love your pouring technique. It's very interesting and yields exceptional results!!!