Jacques Cartier River, Morning Mist | Richard Tiberius

21.8 x 30 in.  | 55.2 x 154.9 cm

This is my second painting of the Jacques Cartier River based on the early spring trip I took to the Jacques Cartier National Park in Quebec. The combination of golden bark of the Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) with the dark greens of Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) and Red Spruce (Picea rubens) was irresistible. The low contrast lighting gave the colors a softness that is not present in direct sunlight.

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This phase in a tree’s life lasts no more than a few days each year. Despite the weather—cold, wet and overcast—I was fortunate to be there at that time. Perhaps if I had called the ranger station before booking my flight I would have missed this exceptional period. Besides, my spouse, Joyce, was born and raised in Quebec City and she loved being back home.

The Jacques Cartier river flows through the Jacques Cartier National Park, in Quebec, Canada. I have been to this park before, at roughly the same time, early in May, but at that time the trees were already bursting with new leaves. This time the winter held on longer than usual. Most of the trails were “fermé” (closed).

Stretching Birch (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

30 x 28 in| 76.2 x 71.1 cm

Whenever I think of birch trees I usually picture thin white poles reflecting into the shores of northern lakes.  But birches, like most plants, can change their shape to take advantage of their situation.  When growing alone, like the tree in this painting, they spread out to take advantage of unimpeded sunlight.

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Looking at this birch, which seems to be stretching out its limbs, I was struck with its similarity to people, who stretch out their arms to enjoy the first rays of a warm spring day.  I love painting birches in early spring when their delicate structure and fine twigs are visible as well as the many colors reflected in their white bark that are usually obscured by leaves.

This birch grows in a region that was once a narrow valley between rugged mountains.  The glacier flattened the mountains and then erosion wore them down into the well-rounded forms that are in the background.  The silt created a flat, boggy delta.  Shrub Dogwoods and Willows were among the first plants to colonize the delta and still dominate it.   Birches, Elms, Red Maples and Willows followed the shrubs.  The graceful trunk of an Elm that grew here, before the Dutch Elm disease killed it, is still visible on the right.  It is covered in vines.  The land will have to become much dryer before other trees will join these early starters.

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 to northern Georgia.  This particular one grows in Parc Cape Tournmount, in Quebéc.