Black Spruce bog, Cochrane


This is one of my favorite plein air oils, painted in the fall of 1992, while sitting in the moss in a bog south of Cochrane, Ontario. It took two afternoons. We were camped nearby on a closed loop of the old highway.

Bogs are exhillarating places for me - the sharp acidic smell of the sphagnum, the clean cushiony texture of it, the rich contrasting reds, oranges and greens of the moss itself... the visual excitement of the tracery of Cranberry over the sphagnum. The micro-topography of a bog is interesting, in contrast to its flat aspect from a distance - it is always hummocky, and the little pools of black water are like reflective jewels in settings of brocade and filigree. The stunted aspect of the trees, and to realize that they can be centuries old and no taller than myself, is very personal somehow. I admire the tenacity and hardiness of the few plant species that can survive in bogs - and that most of them are evergreen. The plants that survive in the sterile acidic matrix of Sphagnum can only do so by special adaptations, like those who keep microrhizal fungi on their roots, to digest the moss and release nutrients - and the exotic-looking Pitcher Plants which collect their own food by drowning insects. The simplicity of there being so few species that I can know them all, is also personal. Where else can you be and know the names of everything you see around you?


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