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Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd, South
Fort Myers, FL 33965-6565
(239) 590-1000 or (800) 590-3428



Senior Project DECEMBER 2015

When I was little, my sisters and I lived in a house off of McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers, Florida. There was a giant oak tree in our front yard and after watching this tree go through storms and floods the tree always stood strong. I’ve always been interested in trees in legend and mythology because of the stories they tell. The Ancient Celts honored oak trees as an emblem of endurance and conducted spiritual rituals in the sacred oak groves. In the Classical era, Zeus and Jupiter held the oak tree sacred as the Tree of Life because its roots would penetrate deep into the underworld and its branches would soar into the sky. In Northern cultures the oak tree is believed to be the tree of the thunder gods because of its endurance to withstand lightening strikes. Cultures in India believed that the oaks were cosmic trees called Asvattha where the tree reverses the usual order - the roots are in the sky and the branches grow downward covering the Earth. For me, the McGregor tree is a symbol of strength and resilience that grows at the center of my universe.

When I was three my parents divorced and both remarried by the time I was five or six. My sisters and I would plan our entire days around playing near the oak tree in the front yard. This was also where I met one of my first childhood friends, Wendy. She lived across the street and would come over whenever we were outside to play with us. We built lemonade stands and played with our Barbie dolls under our tree. As I got a little older, I would see hurricanes come through and cause branches to break and wipe all the leaves off of the tree. No matter how much damage the storms did to the tree it always overcame it. In August 2014, Wendy passed away from complications with osteosarcoma. She didn’t know it, but I looked up to her more than people really thought. She reminded me of our tree: she was determined; she battled her way through her own personal hurricanes and never gave up. Coming from a divorced family wasn’t always easy, and there were plenty of times where I needed to remember to believe in myself and get through it. I’ve had my own set of struggles in life and sometimes the only thing you can do is to keep fighting. This project is a constant reminder for me to stay strong and keep fighting - if Wendy could do it, so can I.

I am a graphic designer and typically only work in a digital format, however, for this project I wanted to paint what I would normally make in digital illustration. I didn’t want to use a paintbrush for the background because I wanted to be emotionally and physically involved in the painting. The markings in the background needed to be emotional markings. For the first layer on the background I used a sponge to build up the colors in the cosmos. In the second layer I threw and dripped paint with a paintbrush. For the third layer I used different sizes of circles as a stamp. For the tree itself, I included paint chips from dried built up acrylic paint tubes because I liked the texture. The paint chips resembled the markings in an oak tree’s bark. I painted the background first so that whatever texture was in the background would also be in the tree as well. The McGregor tree is painted so large because I want people to stand up next to it and be completely absorbed by the growth beyond the edge of the canvas. The tree “grows” off of the canvas to give it a feeling of continuous life. Since I don’t typically make photorealistic images, I wanted to paint the project in an illustrative style that would be similar to something I would create using graphic design software.