The Thing About Planting Trees

Outdoor Adventure, plants

Climbing Trees

I often get excited about the idea of planting trees near my home. Trees that will grow to become old, gnarled giants – beautiful sentient beings that amaze us. Then, a selfish reminder sets in. I will not be around to witness the transformation; my lignin endowed friends and I live on different timescales.

But wait. I can still plant things and watch them grow to large proportions in my lifetime! Trees, such as water loving willow species grow rapidly and reach mature size in just 15 years. Shrubs likes Red Osier Dogwood can grow to their maximum size in just a few years. Better yet – tall native perennials like Joe-Pye weed can grow a foot taller than me by its 2nd year of growth.

Still, how many of us have watched a little green Shagbark Hickory sapling spring 120 feet upward and put on fierce slabs of gnarled bark, pointing every which way? How many of us have planted American Sycamore and hung around long enough to see its smooth gray bark become a rugged mass, adorned with white, brown, and gray-green flakes? In the winter, the Sycamore takes on a ghostly form, as monster’s white tentacles reach out over icy water.

Finally, I come full circle and realize that my initial excitement is valid. Shortsighted are gardeners who plants trees for themselves only. Who am I to prevent air and water purification, food and shelter for living organisms, and many other gifts offered by trees? Plant trees I will – and if the exotic bug doesn’t get them, maybe my grandchildren will have a magical place to swing and climb

Stairway to Heaven Hike, Vernon NJ

Art, Hike of the Week, hiking, New Jersey, Outdoor Adventure, plants, watercolor
Sunny Mud Path

Sunny Mud Path, Vernon NJ

The Stairway to Heaven hike in Vernon showcases some of the most beautiful parts of northern New Jersey. But what did I choose to paint from this hike? A puddle of mud! I’m sorry, but beautiful vistas don’t always scream “paint me”. I found beauty in this mud puddle for these reasons – simplicity, reflection, composition, and color. The view from a mountain top can make for an excellent painting, but I’m craving a certain something else these days – something sort of interesting, though difficult to pinpoint.

Simplicity

I like a good architectural challenge once in a while – buildings in truthful perspective, arranged with charm. This time, I”ll take a couple of cedar trees and a muddy path, please. The freedom to paint a simple landscape promotes a sense of joy and relief, as if a tremendous weight has been lifted.

Reflection

I’ve broken a painting rule – the reflection of a subject in water should be darker than the actual subject. Not in this painting. But that’s the way it is – there is a thin layer of water covering the muddy path, making the reflection of the tree appear lighter because the sun shining on the mud under the water is bright.

Composition

There’s no mountain in the background, but artistic liberties must be taken to make things a bit more interesting. Even without the mountain, the composition of this scene made me stop walking. I saw the potential for wonderful depth  – the muddy path and lighting draws the viewer further into the painting.

Color

This scene is located at the base of Waywayanda Mountain. The habit is mostly field with numerous red cedar pioneering the area. Whether the trees were planted here, I do not know. I found the color contract tremendous. Red-ish green cedar trees (hence the name Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana) against a straw-yellow field, with a cobalt-blue bright sky (some of that in the reflection).

That’s what hooked me then, not sure what will hook me next 🙂

 

Kids Playing Outside – Watercolor 10×14”

Art, Outdoor Adventure, watercolor

Kids Playing Outside w/c 10×14”

Sometimes inspiration comes from a photo taken by your sister-in-law. I’m not sure what about the photo inspired me, but for some reason I just wanted to paint it. It’s great to see kids playing outside. The cold northeastern weather doesn’t seem to bother them. They are happy and curious exploring the streets of East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania with their parents.

Annual Sunflower (watercolor 10×14”)

Art, plants, watercolor

Annual Sunflower

Helianthus annuus – the annual sunflower. Bright like the sun with its radiant yellow petals surrounding a giant disc. We plant the seed every year waiting for it to sprout, with childlike excitement, until finally the plant grows into a towering beast. Birds love to feast on the sunflower’s seeds and perch on it’s strong limbs. We too enjoy it’s oil, seeds, and the many horticultural pleasures it brings. Oh yeah, the bumblebees think it’s okay too.

Moonlit Forest Watercolor Painting 14×20”

Art, Life Balance, watercolor

Moonlit forest w/c 14×20”

There’s something about winter that makes me want to paint night scenes. Probably because in the northern hemisphere there is more darkness this time of year. Night can be magical and mysterious, which is what I’m trying to convey in this painting with a dramatic sky and a full moon shining through the clouds. “Creatures” tend to become more active at night, though in the dead of winter, I’m not so sure. I bet most sensible animals slow their heart rate down and buckle down until warmer times. I like to think of ourselves as slowing down too, to take a breath and look around? Nah, of course not.

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)

hiking, Outdoor Adventure, plants

Mitchella repens (Partridge berry). This is an often overlooked, wonderful evergreen ground cover for shade/part shade in the garden. It is fairly common in the deciduous forest understory. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any with the red berries still intact (which I hear are edible). This plant is somewhat slow growing and it eventually forms a dense carpet. When in bloom, the little white flowers are structured so that they prevent self-fertilization, thus promoting genetic diversity! And, it is the only plant in its genus in North America.

Winter of 1780

Art, watercolor

Winter of 1780 in Morristown was a brutal situation for the continental army – solders were given almost nothing to eat and supplies were scare. Meanwhile, General Washington and other high ranked officials stayed at the Ford Mansion with plenty to eat. I suppose little has changed since then; a few benefit while the majority struggles.

At this time of year, I am always grateful that I can get warm whenever I want to. This painting is a representation of the hardship that these men endured as they fought for independence from Britain. Fire was crucial for both survival and sending warning signals of British attack.

Winter of 1780 in Morristown, New Jersey

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Here’s are work in progress photos for this painting.

Original idea sketch for composition

Starting to lay in some of the washes and trees

The pines dry much lighter in color than expected

Time to refine and define values better

Winter of 1780 (w/c 14×20”)