Red Maple and Sumac in Fall | Richard G. Tiberius

36 x 24 in | 91.4 x 61 cm

Few trees equal the brilliance of Red Maples in the fall. And Sumac is the unexcelled champion of color variation. Sumac shrubs have compound leaves, which means that each leaf has many little leaflets joined to a single stem. The colors on even a single leaflet can blend from purple to yellow-orange. I used more than a dozen knives at the same time, each with a different color. When these two species grow together, as in the scene that inspired this painting, the result is a dazzling feast of color. The soft yellow background reflected in the pond is mostly from sugar maples.

Click for detail.
Click for detail.

And to think that we almost missed this scene. Joyce and I were driving back after spending a week camping with our relatives. We took lots of pictures but they were rather disappointing. The mist and fog dulled the colors. Then, on the way home we spotted a flash of color on a rise beside the roadway. We pulled over, climbed up and found that the source of the color, a Red Maple, growing beside a quiet little pond, hidden from the road. The sun came out for just enough time for us to take a few pictures.

The red Maple (Acer rubrum) is one of the most widespread trees in North America, ranging throughout all the States and Provinces east of the Mississippi. I have seen them growing in the wetlands around Miami, Florida and the hills of Nova Scotia. Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina), is found mainly in the Northeastern States and bordering Canadian Provinces. The common name refers to the forking pattern of the branches, which resemble the horns of a stag. Don’t confuse it with poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), which is not even in the same family as Staghorn Sumac. Far from poisonous, the red seeds of the Staghorn can be steeped in boiling water to make a delicious tea high in vitamin C.

White Ibis (sold) | Kiry Tiberius

23.75 x 21 in | 60.3 x 53.3 cm

By the end of the day, we had taken so many pictures of white ibises that I had to laugh at how digital cameras have freed us from needing to conserve film. The wonderful thing about having “too many” pictures, is that somewhere in the bunch there might just be one that makes a good composition with very few changes needed. This Ibis composition was almost one photograph, but I still ended up using a second in order to get the true range of colour for the eye and bill.

Click for detail.
Click for detail.

I had fun with the juxtaposition of textures in this painting. The background and the body of the bird are very smooth, while the shells that the bird stands on are rough and thickly layered. I almost couldn’t believe how much white paint went into making that pile of shells. Now that it’s dry, the foreground is quite sharp to the touch.

For me, this composition seems to express some of the peacefulness that I always find when visiting the islands of Sanibel and Captiva. Almost the whole painting is made up of soft colours. The few points of intense colour are the eye, the beak, and the small pieces of seaweed in the foreground, which add refreshing contrast.

Great Blue Heron | Kiry Tiberius

40 x 30 in | 101.6 x 76.2 cm

This painting, at 40 inches wide and 30 inches tall, is one of the largest I have done to date. Choosing the size of panel for a specific composition requires careful consideration. For my work, the size must emphasize the aspect of a subject that I want the viewer to appreciate.

Click for detail.
Click for detail.

This great blue heron had to be done on a grand scale, in order to give the viewer a feel for how bright and open the water’s edge was. The great blue heron is a large and stately bird, the long neck moves with a fluid grace that echoes the smooth shifting of the waves.

All that being said, this particular bird has a story that is a little less noble. Apparently, the locals of the area call this bird “Steve.” He is often seen close by the people fishing along the beach in North Captiva, Florida. Steve doesn’t just hope for a fishy handout; he will try to steal the fish that the humans have caught. Hey, he was there first!

Whether viewed as elegant or crafty, the charm of the great blue heron is undeniable.

Red Maple and Sumac in Fall

What excited me about the scene of Red Maple and Sumac was the colors. Not just the intensity of the color, but the range. Sumacs display every hue in the rainbow. My neighbor asked me why I put all those colors in the sumac leaves. Is that real? he asked. He had seen sumacs as a kid, but I don’t think he looked closely enough. Maybe the next time he sees them in the fall, he will.

One of the collectors of my art, Dr. Roger Martin, wrote me the following when he first saw a photo of this painting: “The sumac piece — well, that has a rich feel of community and company in it for me. It made me want to go there, shelter under the rich colours, feel the shade of the branches, the warm company of the quiet water. That’s got an unbelievable appeal for me.” I was delighted that he felt the richness of the colors, as I did. But he felt more. For me the existence of the pond was a lucky accident because it enabled me to reflect the colors of the background. For him it became quiet and warm. How wonderful! I did not think of that but it’s surely there in the scene. And his sheltering in the shade of the Maple, what a comforting image. Actually I came upon the scene rather late in the afternoon. The sun had peeked out for only a few minutes for which I was hugely grateful because of the way it lighted up the leaves. But, again, perhaps earlier in the day, when it was hotter, leaning back on the soft grass, yes, I can see it. It’s so exciting for me to see my paintings from different points of view.

Even when I include botanical characteristics of the plants in writing about my painting the botany is simply a means of achieving a greater sympathy for the subject. I’m in good company here. Thoreau saw no incompatibility between his emotional and scientific approach to trees. Richard Higgins wrote an article in American Forests (summer, 2016) about Thoreau’s “visceral connection” to trees. He writes that “Botany gave him [Thoreau] a way to see the invisible energies of trees and new words to describe them”.

Richard, June 18, 2016

Engelmann Spruce in Yellowstone National Park (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

36 x 23.75 in | 91.4 x 60.3 cm

According to the Yellowstone Park website, “Forests cover roughly 80% of the park and lodgepole pine comprises nearly all of that canopy.” There is a little lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) peaking out of the lower right hand corner of this painting, but the focus of the painting is on a less common resident of the park—an Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmanii).

Click for detail.
Click for detail.

The Engelmann’s ragged appearance and complex pattern of branches caught my eye, while the brilliant yellow wolf moss provided a lively contrast to the dark chocolate brown bark. Its isolation against the sky allowed me to observe its beautifully complex structure. In contrast, had just hiked up from the valley where trees were so densely packed that they presented a uniform wall of green. I recently read an article in American Forests magazine (Summer, 2016) by Richard Higgins in which he quotes Henry David Thoreau “A tree seen against other trees is a mere dark mass, but against the sky it has parts, has symmetry and expression.” Old trees like this have so much character. I have no idea exactly how old it is because Engelmann spruce at high, wind swept elevations like this tend to be very slow growing. Some stunted trees can be 1000 years old.

The tens of thousands of spires poking up from the mountains in the distance are mostly young lodgepole pines. Living in New England, Thoreau may not have been familiar with lodgepole pines, but they are the perfect example of the “dark mass” in his description. Frequent fires kill the lodgepole pines but some of their cones are sealed and stay on the trees until a forest fire heats them, after which they burst open and drop their seeds onto the newly burned area. The new seedlings grow so thick you can’t squeeze between them if you are wearing a pack.

For me the most important feature of this particular tree is the fact that my daughter and son-in-law wanted the painting for a wedding gift.

Tall Delphinium and Triangular Ragwort | Richard G. Tiberius

30 x 30 in | 76.2 x 76.2 cm

Delphinium and Triangular Ragwort often share clearings in the subalpine woods. They are able to share the sunshine equally because both are tall, topping out at about five feet (1.5 m). Together the two flowers make a stunning combination, the Blue-Purple flowers of the Tall Delphinium (Delphinium barbeyi) are almost a perfect complement to the butter yellow of the Triangular Ragwort (Senecio triangularis). In the shaded areas the Delphinium are deep purple but appear distinctly blue in the sun. I used Permanent Mauve for the shaded flowers and French Ultramarine Blue for those in the sun. The Ragwort flowers also shift in color from shade to sun, moving from an orange-yellow toward a lemon yellow, but the shift is less dramatic. The suffix “wort” in plants’ names sounds like a disease, but it simply means “plant” in Old English.

Click for detail.
Click for detail.

I painted this composition in my studio based on a number of pictures I had taken of the field. The pictures reminded me of the limitations of the camera compared to the human eye. Some of the pictures were focused on only one part of the field: the foreground, middle or the background, while the rest of the photo was blurred. Other photos were taken with adjustments that enabled the camera to get everything in focus, but the resulting image was flattened like wallpaper with all the flowers squished together. To our eyes, in contrast, everything we look at appears in focus at the same time because our eyes instantly refocus wherever we look. Also, we don’t see the field as flat wallpaper because we see in stereo. Nothing beats the human eye. As an artist, I attempted to mimic the experience of the human eye rather than the camera by painting all of the flowers in focus, and using heavy application of paint with the knife to reveal the depth.

I first painted this field of flowers it was titled “Meadow at the Edge of the Forest”. The meadow ended with a dark forest at the top of the painting. After looking at the painting from time to time I grew critical of its perspective. The dark forest seemed to crowd the field. I thought it might be better to change the perspective so that my back was to the forest and I was looking out onto the open field. So I repainted it. Now “Meadow at the Edge of the Forest” no longer exists. It has become “Tall Delphinium and Triangular Ragwort”.

White-tailed Deer in Autumn | Kiry Tiberius

30 x 18 in / 76.2 x 45.7 cm

The north in autumn may be my favourite location and time of year for hiking. As beautiful as the summer is with its warmth and stillness, I find the fall invigorating. I feel more awake in the crisp fall air. The breezes that come with the season bring so much movement and sound to enjoy. I love the rustling sound that the trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) makes all year round, and at this time of year the other trees join in. Even the grasses, like the clusters of taller grass (Agrostis scabra) in the foreground of this painting, move and sway with the wind. As if all this colour and sound weren’t enough beauty to take in, these white-tailed deer came out into the open to feed on the shorter grasses in the clearing. Their resources diminish as winter approaches, and this relatively damp land at the edge of a marsh provided some grass that was still green and tender enough for them.

Click for detail.
Click for detail.

For us, this clearing offered a delightful view as the deer stepped out to eat. Two of them were clearly older and more accustomed to coming across people. The little one was not so sure. Those bright eyes and large ears focused in on these strange new intruders. Here in the nature preserve, the deer are protected. In time, the little one will learn that we mean them no harm. For now, though, I can enjoy the magic of an encounter with these deer, looking into the long-lashed eyes of this adorable creature.

 

 

Yellow-crowned Night Heron | Kiry Tiberius & Richard Tiberius

24 x 28 in | 61 x 71.1 cm

The tri-colored heron is one of the most colorful of herons. Its chest and belly are white, neck is a rusty red, and the rest of the body and head are a slate blue. To complete this parade of colors we should add the yellow legs, which turn pink in the breeding season, and the yellow-orange bill, which turns blue in the breeding season.

Click for detail.
Click for detail.

All those colors make you wonder how they help the bird hide from its prey. But a fish looking up would see—or more to the point would fail to see—its white belly against the bright sky. And predators could easily lose sight of it against the rusty colors of the dead leaves and slate blue of the water. We painted it in the context of the aroids that typically grow in the swamps where Tri-colored herons forage. The Aroids are probably Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia). If there had been some white 3-petaled flowers we would have been surer but there weren’t any. In any case, the dark shadows of these plants provided a perfect frame for the heron.

The little umbrellas shining in the sun that range along the base of the aroids are Pennyworts (Hydrocotyle umbellata), sometimes called Dollarweeds. It is an edible weed in the carrot family that can be used in salads. But our heron is not interested in salad. He or she (male and female look alike) is focused on the meat dish.

Tri-colored Heron | Kiry Tiberius & Richard Tiberius

40 x 30 in / 101.6 x 76.2 cm

The tri-colored heron is one of the most colorful of herons. Its chest and belly are white, neck is a rusty red, and the rest of the body and head are a slate blue. To complete this parade of colors we should add the yellow legs, which turn pink in the breeding season, and the yellow-orange bill, which turns blue in the breeding season.

Click for detail.
Click for detail.

All those colors make you wonder how they help the bird hide from its prey. But a fish looking up would see—or more to the point would fail to see—its white belly against the bright sky. And predators could easily lose sight of it against the rusty colors of the dead leaves and slate blue of the water. We painted it in the context of the aroids that typically grow in the swamps where Tri-colored herons forage. The Aroids are probably Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia). If there had been some white 3-petaled flowers we would have been surer but there weren’t any. In any case, the dark shadows of these plants provided a perfect frame for the heron.

The little umbrellas shining in the sun that range along the base of the aroids are Pennyworts (Hydrocotyle umbellata), sometimes called Dollarweeds. It is an edible weed in the carrot family that can be used in salads. But our heron is not interested in salad. He or she (male and female look alike) is focused on the meat dish.

Purple Columbine (sold) | Kiry Tiberius

18 x 15 in / 45.7 x 38.1 cm

One of my favourite things to do when I’m hiking, or in a garden, is to sit close enough to a flower so that the features of the flower become a landscape of colour and texture—a magical world unto itself. In this painting, I invite the viewer to see the purple columbine in such a way. I chose to use an unusually small panel to encourage intimacy between viewer and flower.

Click for detail
Click for detail

The purple columbine (Aquilegia coerulea) is a hardy little flower, despite its delicate appearance. It can live through cold temperatures, at high altitudes, and even wedged in the cracks of very rocky terrain as it is here. There are so are many species of columbine that it sometimes becomes difficult to determine the name of one particular plant. This flower gives itself away by its deep violet, almost indigo and white petals.

When my grandmother first saw this painting she told me a story about the columbine in her garden. The columbine is a perennial, so they should return every spring. But the little sprouts that popped up in the spring looked a lot like weeds to my grandfather, who pulled them out. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that my grandmother was especially excited about this painting. The painting now hangs in her bedroom, where she can see it every morning as she awakens, all through the year.

Pika on Lichen-covered Rocks (sold) | Kiry Tiberius

28 x 24 in | 71.1 x 61 cm

When I was a kid, I was familiar with the usual animals like cows and ducklings from my children’s books but I had never heard of a pika. It wasn’t until I grew up and went hiking in the mountains that I met one. I saw the pika in this painting while hiking in the mountains of Yellowstone National Park.

Click for detail
Click for detail

Pikas are not rodents like mice or hamsters. They are related to the rabbit, which is not actually a rodent. The pika is an elusive little mammal that lives in the spaces formed between the rocks of boulder piles (called talus fields), which collect at the base of mountain cliffs. It’s about 15-23 cm long (5.9-9.1 in) without the tail because it doesn’t have a tail. It eats all kinds of leafy plants during the summer. But in winter, because it doesn’t hibernate when these plants are not available, it eats dried plants that it has collected all summer in little haystacks and dried in the sun. Once dry, they are dragged into the burrow for the winter.

In North America you will hear two different pronunciations for the word “pika”, pai-ka and pee-ka. Only in the UK is it pronounced consistently as pai-ka, as you will hear if you watch David Attenborough’s delightful video. Personally, I like pee-ka because it sounds like the adorable squeak that the pika makes as a warning cry. The name pika may bring to mind the animated character called Pikachu. The most common explanation of the character’s name is that it is comprised of two sounds that are onomatopoeic representations in Japanese of crackling electricity (pika) and mouse sounds (chu.) But it is possible that the character was originally based on a pika not a mouse, despite being labeled as a mouse-type pokemon. The marketing folks might have labeled it as a mouse to be more recognizable while at the same time being aware of its double meaning—crackling electricty in Japanese and the little mammal in English.

I was very excited to use the knife technique to create three-dimensional fur. Little cuts in the paint make the hairs stand out when light hits the surface of the painting, which creates a soft furry look. In additional to looking three-dimensional, the whiskers had to be perfectly curved and very fine. I came up with a strategy that worked quite well. Using the edge of the knife I painted a thin line of pale grey over my drawing, and then closed in on that line from either side with the darker color of the background. By squeezing the pale grey paint thinner and thinner, I was able to maintain the curve while achieving a much thinner line than any I could create with the edge of the knife.

Lichen is not a plant. Rather, it is an organism made up of algae or cyanobacteria (sometimes both) living in symbiosis within a fungus. Together, these components allow for amazing variations in shape and colour. There are branch-like forms, leaf-like flat forms and, perhaps my favourite, a flakey form that looks like someone splashed paint on the rocks. The colours of the lichen colonies can be quite vivid. Among the large range of pastel colours were brilliant yellow and orange patches. I chose to paint an area of the rocks that had mostly smaller patches of these colours because I thought that viewers might have a difficult time believing large areas of such vivid colours were natural. The lichen was fun to paint. I made the various forms using heavily textured clumps of paint, which create a very rough and realistic feel to the rocks.

Article in SoMi Magazine

Richard and Kiry Tiberius are a father and daughter team who paint in oil with the use of palette knives on board. They have mastered an extremely exacting technique that requires upwards of 50 hours of work for each painting. The results are highly textural and detailed works of art.

“We try to tell a story with each painting,” said Richard at a recent exhibit of their work at the Wirtz Gallery in the First National Bank of South Miami.

…click to read full article

Cypress-Flowerpots

 

Red-winged Blackbirds on Pond Apple |Kiry Tiberius and Richard G. Tiberius

24 x 30 in | 61 x 76.2 cm

We were walking on a boardwalk in a wetland conservation area, taking pictures of wading birds, when a Red-winged Blackbird popped out of the marsh grasses onto a Pond Apple twig. We snapped a picture before he flew away. Meanwhile, on the other side of the boardwalk, a smaller bird, with very modest coloring was clinging onto one of the grasses. We thought it might be some kind of sparrow although it appeared large for a sparrow. We took a picture of it as well.

Click for detail
Click for detail

The next step was to send the picture of the unknown bird to cousin Paul, our family’s bird expert. To our surprise he said it was the female Red-winged Blackbird. We never imagined that it might be the mate, but we were delighted with the news because the pair made a better composition. Now all that remained was to put them together in the same composition.

When we viewed this painting in dim light one evening we could barely discern the female from her background. She blended in with the leaves and grasses so she might go unnoticed on her nest, which is precisely what Nature intended by providing her with a speckled, subdued coat. The male, in contrast, stood out dramatically against the pastel background, the better to impress females and intimidate rivals.

Pond Apples (Annona glabra) are tropical trees that grow in the water. Their name derives from their apple-like fruit, which are not very tasty. The important feature of this tree for our composition is not the fruit but the leaves, which encircle the birds with a colorful, complementary frame.

Showy Primrose | Kiry Tiberius

48 x 30 in / 121.9 x 76.2 cm

The blossoms of the showy primrose (Oenothera speciosa) are about the size of a golf ball, roughly 1.5-2 inches (3.8-5.1 cm.) Here I have painted them much larger than life—more like the size of dinner plates. By enlarging them, I hoped to provide the viewer with the impact these bright and delicate flowers have when you lie down among them. The petals are soft and silky. They start out white in colour, and grow pinker as they mature.

Click for detail
Click for detail

From this close up perspective the viewer can appreciate details that are often missed. For example, in the left-hand corner of the painting, you can see big chunks of yellow pollen that have fallen from the stamens onto one of the center flowers and the bud. I imagine this is the perspective taken by Alice in Wonderland when she talked to the flowers.

These showy primrose flowers were growing wild by the side of a road in Ennis, Texas, but you can see them almost anywhere in the States since they are native to 28 of the lower 48 States. The grasses that are growing up between the flowers are a sure sign that these flowers were not in a garden, at least not one that is tended by a gardener. I kept all of the grasses in the composition just as they were by the roadside, except for one, which was growing in a particularly bad place for the composition. A photographer might have pulled it out. I just didn’t paint it in.

Cypress Flowerpots | Richard G. Tiberius

36 x 24 in | 91.4 x 61.1 cm

A powerful hurricane must have come through here many years ago leaving the five massive stumps seen here. I’m sure these trees were not logged since the Audubon Society established Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in 1912 to protect these ancient Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum). The stumps are nature’s flowerpots, providing a perfect habitat for ferns and bromeliads. Two of the more ferns in this painting are the Long Strap Fern (Campyloneurum phyllitidis) and Ladder-Brake Ferns (Pteris vittata).

Click for detail
Click for detail

A fallen tree trunk in the background attests to the massiveness of the trees. It would have reached my chest had I waded over and stood beside it. Mosses and lichen cover fallen trees in the foreground.

The sprays of wispy leaves curling out of the sides of trees belong to Tillandsia of the bromeliad or “air plant” family, which turn vibrant colors in the winter.

The Corkscrew River is only a few feet deep. Shallow, still water is a challenging subject for a painter. In some places you can see through the water to the bottom; others show only reflections; and others are covered by a heavy scattering of floating plants and fallen leaves. They catch the light and break up the reflections. This wonderful complexity is tricky to paint, but makes the water sparkle.

Autumn Colour (sold) | Kiry Tiberius

36 x 24 in | 76.2 x 61 cm

In the north, where I grew up, the coming of autumn brings with it a feast for the senses. On this particular day we were hiking in Hamilton, Ontario, in Canada. I can still feel the crunch of dry leaves underfoot as we walked along the forest floor. The leaves of the maples and dogwood above me were ablaze with colour. The brisk fall wind rustled through the leaves overhead as if to say, “winter is coming!” Soon, all of these magnificently outfitted trees would be bare, waiting for the coming of spring.

Click for detail
Click for detail

The sugar maples (Acer saccharum) had turned glorious shades of gold and yellow. The red maples (Acer rubrum) were decked out in scarlet, vermillion, orange, and even peachy pink. The tree on the left of the painting, the dogwood (Cornus alternifolia), had deepened to a collection of purple-red, pink, and violet. What a treat for an oil painter! With each painting, as I relive the experience of being there, I feel a profound sense of gratitude for the wild beauty of nature.

Bromeliad Fireworks | Richard G. Tiberius

24 x 24 in | 61 x 61 cm

The “fireworks” in the title refer to bromeliads, which are bursting out of the sides of these Cypress trees. Bromeliads are in the same family of plants as the pineapples we buy at the grocery store. The leaves of pineapples are usually green when we buy them. The leaves of these tiny bromeliads were also green in summer, but in the fall they turn various colors and become translucent. The backlighted sun in this scene lights them up like fireworks. I suspect that there are several species in this scene. Although I don’t know which species they are, they surely belong to the Tillandsia family.

Click for detail.
Click for detail.

In addition to the lively bromeliads the dark trunks of the trees provided a dramatic canvas on which Lichens of many shades were splattered. On first glance all of the Lichens may look pale grey but try looking from one trunk to another and back again, rapidly. This old painter’s trick makes the differences pop out. Although all of the lichens were shades of pale grey—none of the brilliant red colors that I painted in a scene ten years ago (called “Painted Posts”)—the differences in their colors were exaggerated against the dark bark. Some were tinted with turquoise, others with blue, and still others with green.

Not only do lichens provide interesting colors, they also add texture. They are ideal subjects for knife painters. Some of them are like shingles; others like rope; and still others more like paint. I painted the trunks first and then, when they had dried, I patted, streaked and ran my knife over the dry paint to create all of these shapes. By the way, Lichens are a fascinating life form. They are not plants. They are a composite organism formed by algae or cyanobacteria and a fungus living in a mutually beneficial relationship.

The shapes of the trees also added to the interest to this composition. These are not the massive Bald Cypress trees (Taxodium Distichum) that are as straight as telephone poles. These are Pond Cypress trees (Taxodium ascendens), a curvaceous relative of the Bald Cypress.

Sunset through the Pines | Richard G. Tiberius

21 x 16 in | 53.3 x 40.6 cm

After a long day hiking in the mountains my wife, Joyce, and I were talking about dinner and sleep. We hoped to be out of the narrow, winding mountain roads before dark. Although the colors of the setting sun were beautiful, we were worried that, if we stopped to take photos, we would be driving in the dark. “Let’s not stop” I said, just as we passed a section of tall pines mixed with spruces through which the sun was shining, imparting a blaze of colors to the clouds, from violet, through orange to yellow.   Then I changed my mind. Maybe just one photograph, I thought. We pulled over to the side of the road and I ran out with my camera.

In the first few pictures I took the tops of the branches were slate blue, perhaps from the remnant of daylight overhead. A few minutes later, as the sun sank lower in the horizon, the bark and leaves of the trees were tinged with orange light. In the space of

Click for detail.
Click for detail.

five minutes the trees were completely silhouetted and the sky was a deep orange. I printed photographs from various stages and spread them out in front of me. I decided to make a collage, borrowing images from each of the stages of the setting sun—the slate grey of branches when I first started, the streaks of orange light on the tree trunks and leaves after a few minutes, and the yellow, orange and purple sky at the final stage. This collage seemed to capture accurately the minutes that I spent looking at the sunset. A single picture would capture only one stage. After all, my brain experiences such a short experience as a whole.

Failing light muted the green colors of the pine and spruce trees. I had to mix a lot of Burnt Umber into Chromium Oxide Green to achieve the appropriate level of desaturation. The result looked almost grey on my otherwise bright palette, but on the panel it looked right. The sun needed to be the brightest part of the painting.

Some trees, like American Basswood and Black Spruce, have such unique forms that I can usually identify them from their silhouettes. These were not so easy. I would say Western White Pine (Pinus monticola) and Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii), but that’s a guess.

Red Mangroves, Ten Cormorants and a Pelican (sold) | Kiry Tiberius & Richard Tiberius

24 x 30 in | 61 x 76.2 cm – oil on panel, painted with knives

My daughter, Kiry Tiberius, has been painting all her life but not with painting knives. In the last ten years she has become increasingly interested in using painting knives and wanted me to teach her the techniques. I was, of course, delighted, especially since I had more time after retiring from the university.

Click for detail.
Click for detail.

The thought had occurred to us that it would be great fun to collaborate on a painting. An occasion arose when a couple, who had bought a painting of a Great Blue Heron from me a few years before, requested a painting of a pelican as a companion piece.

Kiry offered to paint the pelican if I would do the trees. She loves painting birds. So do I but trees are my favorite subject. I left a space for the bird. The space looked weird, like a ghost of the bird, until Kiry painted in the pelican. The result looked seamless. She even captured the reflections of the water under the wing and the slight violet tint to the upper side. – Richard


Sitting in a kayak, looking at faraway cormorants through binoculars, the waves quietly lapped at our sides, and the soft rustling of the red mangrove leaves whispered around us. In this peaceful moment, we didn’t expect to be startled by the majestic grandeur of a brown pelican. These unexpected glimpses of wild beauty swell the heart with joy. The sense of awe is overpowering.

Click for detail.
Click for detail.

This painting my father and I created together captures the experience we shared. The open edges of the composition give the viewer a sense of the endless expanse of the water and bright sky. The mangroves in the distance seemed to be organically connected to the silhouettes of those cormorants we were watching. The powerful bird dominates the view, an inescapable focus point. The broad wings are lifted in flight, a fitting symbol of our soaring spirits on that beautiful day. — Kiry

Thirty-four Geese in Cord Grass (sold) | Kiry Tiberius & Richard Tiberius

40 x 24 in | 101.6 x 61 cm – oil on panel, painted with knives

My daughter Kiry and I painted this scene together. It was fun painting with my daughter and discussing the composition. I’m guessing that the grass is Prairie Cord Grass (Spartina pectinata) because this species is so common throughout the Great Lakes and Midwestern States, where we found this marshland, but it may be different species of Spartina.

Click for detail
Click for detail

The geese no doubt had a different perspective on the grasses. For them the wetland grasses were either a cafeteria or refueling station half way through their migration. They frequently winter in Canada and migrate to the US South for the summer, but in the mid States, just south of the Great Lakes, where this scene is located, they can stay all year. So these might be permanent residents rather than refueling migrants. Whatever their status, they were all over the place. In this one bank we counted more than 50. Thirty-four made it into the final composition. I have read that geese eat the leaves as well as the underground stems (rhizomes) of cord grasses in winter although I can’t imagine how they get at the underground stems.

There are two kinds of geese in this scene—Canada geese (Branta Canadensis) and Cackling geese (Branta hutchinsii). The Cackling geese are about half the size of the Canada geese but otherwise are very similar in color and markings. This posed a problem of perspective for us. If viewers assume that they are all Canada geese, they might conclude that we goofed on the perspective, painting some of the geese in front smaller than those more distant. We didn’t. The smaller Cackling geese just happen to be in the front and we painted them as we saw them.

In painting both the grasses and the geese we used the edge and tip of our knives. In contrast we used the broad flat part of our knives for the water and sky.

The icy look of the water was a perfect complement to the warm colors of the grasses. For the water we used a combination of Blues, Cobalt Stannate and Phthalocyanine Blue, which gave the water the icy look that we saw on this clear fall day.