Old Maple's Spring Song (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.) SOLD!

22 April finds me admiring the four "crones" in an old pasture north of Brockville on North Augusta Road. In winter their gestures appear stark and grotesque, but as each spring coaxes the little leaves from their twigs they look to be dancing.  This one, with a gaping hole near the top of the broken main trunk seems to me to be singing.

I've been contemplating these Sugar Maples for thirty years as subjects for painting, and I'm happy to be  finally getting around to it. The trees are more ancient, and perhaps more nutrient-stressed, than they were, and it seems Cattle aren't pastured in this field any more. The one spreading tree, the northern neighbour of the one that I am painting, looks like it once may have been attractive for Cattle to rest under. It is more flourishing than the others, but there's such a dense growth of invasive Cathartic Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) growing up among its lower branches, that Cattle couldn't rest there now. We know that the Buckthorn is moderately palatable to Rabbits and Goats, but we don't know what Cattle think of it.

Sugar Maples are trees of the climax forest, which demand high nutrient levels for successful growth and survival. The acid rain Sugar Maple Decline crisis in Quebec was remedied by fertilizing the sugar bushes. In a pasture, the dynamics of nutrient flow depend on the behaviour of the livestock. If they come to lie in the shade of a tree, their manure will concentrate nutrients from the open field in its vicinity, leading to flourishing growth, but if they graze under the tree, and defecate elsewhere, they may strip the nutrients away from the tree and leave it in a stressed and declining condition. There is some Buckthorn at the base of my singing Maple as well, but not as much.  Also singing are Robins and Redwing Blackbirds.

I have chosen a middle-tone of burnt sienna as my underpainting, because I want its lively, cheerful influence to suffuse the painting with spring warmth.


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