Yellow Birch New Leaves (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

23 x 28 in | 58.4 x 71.1 cm

I found this stand of yellow birch while hiking a steep mountain trail early one morning. Since it was spring and the new leaves had not yet blocked my view, I could see deep into the woods through many layers of new leaves. It was an exciting challenge to paint the light diffused and reflected by the leaves. The stippled pattern of the leaves complemented the patches of light on the curling bark, giving the entire scene a kind of spotted appearance.

An old hemlock stump and a massive beech provided surfaces against which to show the shadows of the birch leaves. Mention birches and most people think only of peeling, white bark. Yellow birches peel too, like their white cousins, but with golden yellow curls.

A forester friend saw this painting and identified the trees as Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) right away. Yellow Birches interest foresters because they can grow to massive sizes. He also reminded me that the twigs taste like wintergreen if you are out in the forest and want a little treat.

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Yellow Birches can be seen throughout the forests of Southern Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes, down through the New England States and the Allegheny mountains. Because Yellow Birches live longer and tolerate shade better than the White Birches, they are often seen mixed with the other trees rather than in pure stands that die off as the other trees take over. This stand of Yellow Birches is living on a steep mountain slope in the Smokey Mountain National Park in Eastern Tennessee.

Unexaggerated Red Maple (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

24 x 28 in | 61 x 71.1 cm

A friend who saw this painting told me that, if he had seen the painting before coming to North America, he would have assumed that the colors were exaggerated. In the fall, Red maples display a huge range of colors—various shades of red as well as violet, yellow and orange. Even so, rarely are all of these colors present at the same time as they are in this cluster of trees. After finishing the painting my palette was covered with virtually every color in my collection.

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The “Red” in the name Red Maple, from which it gets both its common and botanical name, is its dominant theme, and it lasts all year. In winter and spring its buds are red and in summer its twigs and leaf stems are tinged with red. In early spring the swelling buds create a reddish haze in the swampy areas and on the banks of lakes and streams where is it commonly found. I am preparing my mosquito netting and repellent in preparation for the spring when I will paint these subtle ruddy tones, an exciting challenge for a knife painter.

Red Maples (Acer rubrum) are common throughout Eastern North America, from the broadleaf forest belt of Canada to as far south as Florida. I ran across this particular group while hiking in a conservation area in Southern Ontario.

Translucent Viburnum (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

20 x 24 in | 50.8 x 61 cm

Someone who enjoys hiking in the woods where these plants grow asked me if the colors were real. He had never seen anything so fantastic in the Northern forest. He wanted to know where and when he could find them.

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The translucent, brightly colored leaves are from a shrub called a Maple-Leaved Viburnum. In the fall, when the green pigment is destroyed by the cold, the leaves lose their green color, and become translucent. Backlighting by the late afternoon sun brought out all the colors—from pale yellow-greens and ochres to brilliant shades of mauve and violet. The colors changed as the light faded. I would have watched them it until the sun went down but I had to get out of the forest before dark.

Maple-Leaved Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) gets both its English and Botanical names from its leaves, which resemble those of the maples (The genus “Acer”). It is actually quite common in dry woodlands, including most of the Northern forests from Quebec to Minnesota and South to the New England States, and the Appalachian Mountains as far south as Georgia. The one I painted was on a ridge beside a moraine in a birch, maple, and beech forest North of Mackie Lake in Southern Ontario.

Totem Spruce (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

20 x 26 in | 50.8 x 66 cm

One of my delights in painting is celebrating aspects of nature that usually go unnoticed, like this dead spruce in the middle of a swamp. Without leaves, the structure of branches and bark are revealed. Under the patches of missing bark are patterns of wood grain and colors created by weathering and resin. Indeed, the forces of nature have created a totem pole of this spruce. I placed it in the middle of the composition and made it large so that there would be no mistake that it is the focus of the painting.

This scene reminded me of the beauty of flora in decay, an example of wabi-sabi, the Japanese art of finding beauty in the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. According to the architect Tadao Ando, “It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind.

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On the other hand, there is also a lot of life in this scene. The spruce itself may not be alive but the lichen growing on it is vibrant and the loose bark harbors many insects over the winter. The cattail heads are packed with thousands of winged seeds ready to start a new generation. The red pines, spruces, and dogwoods at the edge of the swamp are poised to move in as the swamp fills up.

You can see White Spruce (Picea glauca) throughout the forested regions of Canada and Alaska except on the West Coast. It also can be found in the northern most parts of the states east of Minnesota. Cattails (Typha latifolia) grow in the marshy areas throughout the same region. This little swamp is in a green belt conservation area just South of Ottawa.

Sunspots on Hardwood Hills (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

24 x 28 in | 61 x 71.1 cm

The dramatic difference between colors in the sun versus the shade has always impressed me. This contrast is exquisite in the fall colors of Northern forests. Yellows and oranges seem to blossom in the sun while the cooler tones benefit from some shade.

Sugar maples provide most of the yellow and orange hues, red maples the brilliant reds, and birches the lemon yellows. White Ash, sprinkled in the distance, account for the deep maroon. The evergreens are pines and spruce.

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A peculiarity of large trees in fall is that they do not turn a uniform color, a feature I tried to capture in this painting. In addition to wide variations in individual leaves, the inner leaves as a whole are often different from the leaves closer to the ends of the branches giving the trees the appearance of being painted with two coats, one to the whole tree and one to the tips of the branches. I can understand how the Jack Frost story emerged. The inner leaves are often lighter. The sugar maples seem dipped in butter yellow and then tipped with orange while the ashes are dipped in pale yellow and tipped with maroon.

Young forests such as this, reclaimed from abandoned farmland, grow throughout Southeastern Canada and the Northeastern United States. This particular area is in Matawatchan, in Ontario. (For those not familiar with the local English names of these trees, the botanical names are: Sugar Maple (Acer saccarum), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Paper Birch (Betula paperifera), White Ash (Fraxinus americana), White Pine (Pinus strobes), and White Spruce (Picea glauca).

Rugged Beauty—Chicory (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

18 x 22 in | 45.7 x 55.9 cm

One of my pleasures in painting is being able to draw attention to flora that are under appreciated. Chicory is a prime example. It’s a rough looking plant. The stems are wiry, stiff and contain few leaves. It is also a tough plant. I have seen chicory growing from cracks in cement and on railroad tracks. I even saw one plant growing out of the crack between a telephone pole and the cement sidewalk! If you want one more reason why it is not a popular home garden plant, the flowers close at noon.

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But the flowers are a good reason to get out in the garden early. They are the opposite of the rest of the plant—soft, delicate, and a rare shade of sky blue. When I paint a flower I often notice features that have escaped me before. For example, chicory flower petals are square at the tips with a ragged end. And the flowers are stalk less. They sit on little knobby bumps on the stem, making each stalk seem like a stick studded with blue pinwheels.

I have been asked whether this is the same chicory that is used to make coffee. Yes, it has a long taproot that is widely used to make a coffee substitute.

Chicory, (Cichorium intybus), grows on wastelands almost everywhere in North America but it originally comes from Europe. As a rule I like to paint plants in their natural habitat, but the botanists have a useful word for plants that have been particularly successful in colonizing a new land. They call them “naturalized”. I guess I can accept that.

Paper Birch inside view (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

20 x 24 in | 50.8 x 61 cm

People are short compared to birch trees. Whenever I have approached a birch tree to get a closer look all I can see is its trunk. Consequently, in my other paintings, birch trees are either visual exclamation points—streaks of white accent beside a lake or meadow—or mainly trunks. Before this I had not painted from the perspective of inside of the branches of a mature birch, 33 feet (10 m) above the ground.

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The tree that you see here was growing beside a high bridge over which I was walking. When I passed, it took my breath away. I wanted to jump into it and rock it back and forth. The feeling was one of health and youthful vigor. I included only tiny glimpses of sky in the composition to emphasize the point that it is not necessary to see beyond this tree. The bark was so much richer visually than a white streak. The various shades of bright green leaves added to this richness.

My impression of youthful exuberance fits perfectly with what I understand to be the role of the paper birch in forest ecology. They grow rapidly and vigorously, quickly covering the forest after a fire and providing protection for slower-growing trees like hemlocks or oaks. Vigor is the hallmark of the birch. It shoots up like a rocket. To understand it, you need to experience it in full throttle. The price it pays for rapid growth is short life; it will not become a giant of the forest, old, gnarled, and majestic.

Paper birches (Betula papyrifera) can be seen throughout Canadian forests, in the very Northern United States and throughout the high regions of the Appalachian Mountains into Northern Georgia. This particular one lives on the North Shore of Lake Superior, Near Duluth, Minnesota.

New Life (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

12 x 16 in | 30.5 x 40.6

At the end of winter northern forests can be dreary. The dramatic shadows of the trees in the snow have gone and no sign of life has yet appeared. At this time of year I can get excited about the appearance of a single new leaf. And this is when Hepatica offers flowers, even before it sprouts leaves. It is as if it can’t wait to celebrate spring.

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Sculpting the petals of the hepatica with my painting knife recalled the same strokes I had made while painting buttercups before. Hepatica look a bit like large buttercups and, in fact, are in the same family. These hepatica were decidedly lavender in color but they can also be white, pink or blue. I chose a small panel on which to paint these flowers but still made them larger than their actual size. They barely reached the tops of my boots as I walked through the forest. Each flower sits on top of a very hairy stalk. At first I thought of leaving out these hairs, an unimportant detail in the composition. But the way they caught the light seemed to emphasize the purple stems, so I loaded the tip of the knife with paint and danced it up and down the sides of each stem.

The old leaves that you see at the bottom of the painting have survived the winter under the snow so they are flattened and dull, like the leaf litter around them, providing a striking background for the bright flowers. New leaves will appear after the flowers have gone.

Hepatica (Hepatica americana) can be seen throughout Eastern North America from Southern Canada and the Northern U. S., west to Missouri and throughout the Appalachians. This painting is based on Hepatica I have seen in the forests of Southern Ontario, in the Appalachians, and in my own garden.

Gifts from the Glacier (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

24 x 28 in | 61 cm x 71.1 cm

After hiking for hours through flat land I was startled by a huge boulder. It provided a dramatic backdrop for a Paper Birch and the bright canopy beyond. I couldn’t help thinking that the glaciers intentionally drop these boulders to restore some drama to the land after they have flattened it.

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The Paper Birch is known for its brilliant white bark that peels off as the trunk expands. I enjoy painting birch trunks because they take on subtle reflections. On this day the rain-soaked leaf litter imparted a rusty glow to the bark. Eventually the Hemlocks will form a dense canopy under which nothing will grow. They will dominate the forest for centuries until fire or logging initiates another cycle. In the lower right hand corner of the painting is a massive stump, a remnant of the giant hemlocks that once dominated the region.

Paper birches (Betula papyrifera) and Hemlocks (Tsuga Canadensis) can be seen growing together from Southern Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick down to Wisconsin, Michigan the New England States and throughout the high regions of the Appalachian Mountains into Northern Georgia. I discovered this particular scene while hiking with my family in Frontenac Provincial Park in Southern Ontario.

Engelmann Spruce (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

30 x 48 in | 76.2 x 121.9 cm

I remember the moment that I first saw this tree as if it were yesterday. I was cross-country skiing through a mountain trail one very cold afternoon. A fine snow was falling and the sun was behind a pearly sky. The low contrast and haze from the light snow made the forest look soft and feathery, a perfect background against which to appreciate the ruggedness of the Engelmann Spruce. The tree loomed over me.

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A soft blanketing snowfall, the kind that covers branches in white pillows, would have given the wrong impression. But this fine, granular snow was perfect. It settled on each twig separately, accentuating rather than softening their craggy, claw-like appearance. The spruces are tough trees, and the Engelmann is one of the toughest of the spruces, tending to live at higher elevations than its close cousin, the White Spruce (Picea glauca). It seemed to enjoy exposure to the full harshness of the mountain winter. Decorated with bright yellow Wolf Moss, which is harmless to the tree, it appeared to be celebrating the season. I thoroughly enjoyed the contrast of brilliant yellow mosses and mauve reflections inside the branches.

Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii) is the principal spruce of the Rocky Mountains of interior British Columbia, western Alberta, parts of Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. It also grows as far South as southern New Mexico at elevations between 1000 and 2000 meters (roughly 5000 to 11,000 feet). This particular Engelmann Spruce lives in Banff National Park in Alberta.

Bright Green Butterflies with golden tails (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

28 x 24 in | 71.1 x 61 cm

One project that has always captured my imagination is discovering the beauty in common and unappreciated flora. No tree fits this description better than the Ashleaf Maple. It is considered a weed tree, unattractive and useless except for its wood, which can be made into boxes (Thus its other name, Box-elder). It’s a messy thing with too many branches, all of which seem to grow at crazy angles so that the crown looks like an old broom stuck in the ground.

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Yet, every tree has its day. In early spring, long tassels of tiny pollen flowers hang from the male trees of this species. As each pair of new leaves pushes out from the twig over each flower string, the combination looks like a green butterfly with a long tail. I walked past these trees every day marveling at their beauty. One evening, as the sun was setting behind a large tree they looked particularly striking. The tree looked alive with hundreds of iridescent green butterflies trailing long golden tails. I have attempted to capture that in this painting.

Ash-leaf Maples (Acer negundum) can be seen throughout most of eastern and central United States and in southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada. Indeed, their common name in Canada is Manitoba Maple. This particular tree lives on the banks of the Don River, in a city park in downtown Toronto.

Black eyed Susans (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

45 x 36 in | 114.3 x 91.4 cm

This mass of Black-eyed Susans held my eye for a long time. Friends who were walking with me also seemed captivated by them. I have often wondered why flowers in a natural setting can hold our attention for so long. One of the reasons surely has to do with their complexity. The longer I observed them the more a saw. I noticed that not all of the flowers were in their prime. They were at various stages of growth. And not all of them were in clear view. Some were hidden behind stems or leaves. Finally, I noticed other plants growing among the Black-eyed Susans, which I had overlooked at first—Daisies, Sorrel and Milkweed. Such “weeds” would be torn out by a diligent gardener, but in a natural cluster they add surprises that hold my interest. I included these in an attempt to capture the complexity. Nature is messy.

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The Ox-eye Daisies in the foreground are clearly past their prime. Their petals are faded and drooping below swollen seed clusters. It would have been easy to take a few weeks off of the lives of the Dasies to show both types of flowers in their prime. It might have been pretty that way but the painting would then fail to tell the story. Flowers stagger their peak flowering times so that they can share the bees and other pollinators. As the Daisies begin to fade the Black-eyed Susans take over and I have something to paint all summer.

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are native to Northeastern North America, from Nova Scotia to the New England States, but they are found as far west as Manitoba. This flower cluster lives in a former brickyard that was turned into a nature park in downtown Toronto.

Aspen Grove in Spring (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

36 x 36 in | 91.4 x 91.4 cm

Early spring is a magical time in the mountains. The new leaves are still too small to obscure the graceful structure of the trees. At this time of year trees are furthest from the simple image of a tree that we all drew as children—a green circle perched on a stick. In spring trees appear to be veiled in leaves.

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I once read that Aspen groves such as these are actually clones—they are all genetically identical—because they all grew from the roots of a single parent. If that’s true then the bark of every tree in the clone is genetically identical to the next. I was thinking about all this as I painted each trunk a unique color, which I mixed separately on my palette board. The differences are subtle but, if I shift my glance quickly from one to another and back again, the differences pop out. Shadows, reflections, mosses, weathering patterns, and probably many other influences account for the differences.

The Trembling Aspen gets its English and botanical names from the pitching movement of its leaves, even in light winds. New leaves, such as those in this painting, don’t shake. Full grown leaves shake because their long, flat leaf stalks make the leaves tip and flutter when the wind puts pressure on the leaf.

Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides) can be found in all the forested lands of Canada, Northeastern United States and Alaska, except for the West Coastal region. This particular grove lives in Jasper National Park, in Alberta.

Aspen Dashing into the Sunlight (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

20 x 22 in | 50.8 x 55.9 cm

These saplings looked to me like children dashing into the sunlight after school, their arms waving in celebration of their freedom. It was such a happy scene, one of youthful exuberance, that I couldn’t resist painting it. “Dashing into the sunlight” may not be far-fetched even for trees if we consider how rapidly they colonized this field. The parent trees grew in dense stands, crowded to the edges of the fields during the many years that these fields were farmed. New seedlings had little chance under the farmer’s plow. But the year that the field became a park, seedlings suddenly found fertile ground and sunshine. The result was the botanical equivalent of happiness—luxurious growth.

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These favorable growing conditions can trick amateur botanists like me. When I was trying to identify these trees I might have ruled out the Trembling Aspen because the top leaves on these trees were double the size shown in my field guide. They were much larger than those you would see on older trees. Plant growth hormones, called auxins, concentrate at the ends of the branches, especially the upper ones, resulting in faster growth and larger leaves at the top.

The field was covered with white, flat-topped, flower clusters that resemble fine lace, a feature that gives rise to their common name, Queen Anne’s Lace. Their other common name—Bird’s Nest Flower—seems more appropriate for most of the flowers in this painting because the flower heads curl upward in the fall forming an enclosure that resembles a small bird’s nest.

Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides) and Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carola) can be seen throughout Canada and Eastern United States. This field is in one of the many parks surrounding Toronto that plants have reclaimed from farmland.

Alternate leaved Dogwood (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

18 x 24 in | 45.7 x 61 cm

My daughter thought that this painting was the perfect backdrop for a fairy scene. There was something otherworldly about the scene when I first saw it. After a very rainy night in our tent my wife and I packed our soggy stuff and ascended the mountain trail. When the rain stopped we looked over the edge of the trail and peered into the fog-shrouded woods. Every leaf and stem was still glistening with water. Three dogwood trees, at the edge of a mountain trail, caught my eye. They were like jewels. The moisture-filtered light accentuated the greens.

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The bark, which is reddish even on a dry day, took on a deep maroon color when soaked with rain. They are called “pagoda dogwoods” because the branches form graceful tiers like the ancient houses in Asia. Both their English and botanical names are derived from the unusual alternating pattern of the branches on the trunk—the Alternate-Leaf Dogwood and Cornus alternifolia.

The Alternate-Leaf Dogwood does not have the large, white flowers of the Eastern Flowering Dogwoods that are common as garden plantings, but it is hardier. It can be found as far north as Southern Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. We encountered this particular trio on a slope high up in the Smoky Mountains, in Eastern Tennessee. At this elevation the flora of the Southern Appalachians are similar to that found much further North.

Twin Birches (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

23.5 x 35.5 in | 30 x 90 cm

They could be twins.  They could have started as two shoots from the same seed.  In any case they certainly have stood together for many years watching their children grow around them.  The big oval leaves of a young birch directly in front of them undoubtedly belong to their offspring.  The trio is surrounded by Maple trees in early fall colors and framed in the distance by giant Hemlocks.  It’s a beautiful neighborhood.

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What struck me as an artist was the mood.  It was raining and the sun was setting.  The combination imparted a reddish glow to everything.  In the low contrast light, the leaves seemed not so much to reflect light as to glow from inside.  The “deep, dark forest”—a cliché of children’s stories—is meant to be a frightening image, but for me it’s an exciting one.  I can understand why the dark forest may have frightened early humans as they huddled for safety in a small clearing.  Today, however, most of the forests in the world are gone and we live in an enormous clearing with little islands of forest that are not so very dark or deep.  It’s exciting to find one.

In the sunshine the bark of these Yellow Birches shines with a yellow golden color, hence the name “Yellow Birch”. These two were decidedly reddish-brown, partly because they were soaked with rain and partly because of the light at this time of day. Like the white birches their bark peels, but it doesn’t fall easily in papery curls. It stays on the trunk in tight rolls for many years.  I enjoyed painting these rolls.  It’s tricky to do with a knife.  I had to apply the two or three colors and then tap the seam between them with the flat of my knife to blend them.

This deep, dark forest was actually in the Hartley Nature Center in Duluth, Minnesota.

Rain Soaked Cherry Trees (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

24 x 24 in | 61 x 61 cm

I enjoy painting trees in bright sunshine, especially when they are back lighted.  Leaves glow with dramatic colors when the sun shines through them. The problem with bright sun is that it washes out the colors in the shiny parts and obscures the colors in the shadows.  Photographers call this condition “high contrast”.  Rainy days produce the opposite effects. The range and saturation of colors are enhanced on rainy days.

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Among the rainbow of fall colors there are few as saturated as the red leaves of Cherry trees. Notice the spectrum of colors near the tips of each branch, blending from red at the bottom through maroon and ochre to bright green at the tops.  I don’t know why but the tips of the branches are the last to turn red, so they stand out against the red background.  I love discovering these little details.

My friends, who invited me on this walk near their home, were disappointed in the weather until they heard me gushing about the colors.  Rainy day painting reminds me of two frequently asked questions. The first is, “Do you paint in the field, Plein Aire, even when it’s driving rain, freezing, or blowing sand?” And the follow-up question is, “Can you paint from a picture?”  The answer to both questions is “no.” I have been able to capture the subtle effects and feeling of a scene through pictures but not from a single picture and not from someone else’s picture.  I find that only if I take many pictures, and only if I have been at the scene myself, can I capture the moment.  I need an array of pictures—overexposed, underexposed, zoomed in, zoomed out, and some representing changes in the angle and depth of field—and I need my own experience of the place to put it all together.

These Black Cherry Trees (Prunus serotina) are new colonists in an abandoned farm in Ontario.

Red Poppies at Home (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

36 x 30 in | 91.4 x 76.2

As an environmental artist one of the important constraints I place on my work is an attempt to paint flora in their natural environments. I have resisted painting the famous Red Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) for many years because I have seen them only in North America, which is not their original home.  They originated in Europe and Asia, probably in dry areas like the Eastern Mediterranean and western China.

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The Red Poppy is the flower immortalized by the famous World War I poem “In Flanders Fields” that begins “In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow, among the crosses row on row.” It is also immortalized by stories from many other cultures (for example China and Turkey) where it is often connected with war.  But these associations distract me from the thoughts that motivate me to paint.  I’m not trying to take anything away from the importance of the historical Poppy, loaded with symbolic meaning, but I take a different perspective when I paint. I’m trying to paint the poppy that we know from observation.

What I see are large fuzzy flower buds nodding on gracefully curved necks, like thousands of swans bobbing in a field. They seem so modest at this stage, keeping their heads bowed until they are ready to explode into a blaze of red. The petals are so delicate that they fall apart in your hand and yet tough enough to hold up against desert winds. The color was so vibrant that my cadmium red pigment did not seem equal to the task. All I could do to make the flowers appear brilliant is to exploit contrast and texture.  I therefore painted the background stems very dull green and highly textured (with the edge of my painting knife) so that the flat surfaces of the petals would stand out by contrast.  This particular field of Poppies grows near Ein Gedi, in Israel.

Pond Apple with Green Heron (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

24 x 19.5 in | 61 x 49.5 cm

One of my friends was delighted when she saw that I had painted a bird. She added, “And don’t tell me this one is about a tree”. Well, it is. Green Herons have their particular shape because of the trees. They don’t have webbed feet for diving and they don’t sink like Cormorants who can chase fish under water. Instead, their strong legs and feet grip low lying branches while they spear fish passing underneath. Looking at this stubby body you wouldn’t think to compare them with a spear but that’s because they have their necks retracted while they stalk. In a flash they can extend their necks as long as the entire length of their bodies.

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Since they do their spearing while firmly anchored on a branch their hunting technique depends upon the presence of low branches, preferably coming right out of the water. On the salt water coast, that role is filled by the mangroves, while in the fresh water ponds, the Pond Apple is the tree of choice. It grows right out of the water with many small branches perfect for perching. I’ll admit that you can’t see much of the Pond Apple Tree but it is critical not only to the bird but to the painting. Its reflection in the water covers most of the painting.

Despite the amazing immobility of Green Herons, they won’t sit for weeks while I complete the painting so I had to work from photographs. At first I was concerned about the blurriness of the reflections because I thought it was an artifact of my camera. As a Nature painter, I don’t want to paint an artifact. When I realized that the shadow of the branch on which the Heron is sitting, which was close to the water, was not blurry I knew that the blurriness was caused by diffraction.

The Pond Apples (Annona glabra) live in The Everglades National Park, in Florida.

Pine Rockland Community (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

28 x 26 in | 71.1 x 66 cm

The first nature trip I took with my family after we moved to South Florida was to the Everglades National Park. We saw the famous “river of grass”, but there are many other plant communities in South Florida including “Pine Rocklands”. I had always associated Pine and rock with the North. Florida to me was the land of Palms and sand. To see Pines and Palms living together was interesting.

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The Pine trunks surrounded by little palms looked like a happy group, like children dancing around a maypole. Later, when I read about the Pine Rocklands in one of my guidebooks, I discovered that my feelings were echoed in the ecology of this plant community. The Pines and Palmettos in fact form a true community in the sense that they help one another to survive under rather harsh conditions. They grow on almost bare coral rock, which dries out quickly. During the dry season periodic fires rage through these Pine Rocklands. Like the Ponderosa Pines of the West that grow in grasslands, these Slash Pines (Pinus elliottii) are spared because the palmettos do not provide enough fuel to make a high temperature fire. After the fire the palmettos grow new leaves. In areas where the Palmettos have been cleared out, large, bushy shrubs grow—the kind that can fuel a fire hot enough to kill the pines.

Slash Pines look like northern pines except that their needles are very long—up to a foot long. I’m going to have to do another painting to celebrate the graceful crown drooping with soft needles. In this painting I concentrated on the relationship between the trunks and the palmettos. Although the Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) is the most common palm in the region there is at least one other species represented in my painting. A young Cabbage Palm (Sabal palmetto), identified by its characteristic arching frond, is in the middle of the painting at the back. All of these plants are fairly hardy and can be enjoyed throughout the southeastern U.S.