48 x 36 in | 122 x 91 cm
To prevent erosion on steep mountain trails the parks people cut the trails in a zigzag pattern called “switchbacks”. Switchbacks offer plant lovers a rare perspective because they are literally cut into the hillside. On the side away from the mountain you can see a panoramic view of the valley below. While on the side against the mountain you can view the shrubs from a low perspective. Their branches looped into the most graceful curves, while their colors exhausted my pallet. The bark was as smooth as polished wood and of a brilliant hue. I used up a whole tube of scarlet paint. The smooth texture results from the fact that the bark does not form cracks when the growing branches expand but rather peels off, like the bark of a birch tree.
The peeling bark added another dimension. The loose peels were translucent when back lighted. In places where the branches had died off, the weather worn wood had turned to a range of muted blues, greens and purples. The leaves also displayed an impressive range of color—brilliant green where the light shone through them, dark green where the leaves piled up and blocked the sun, and blue-green in reflected light. Completing the color spectrum were the older leaves which turned many shades of ochre, orange and red before falling. There is nothing more enjoyable than painting a subject that demands all my colors.
Manzanita means “little apple” in Spanish. It’s fitting that this shrub should be known by its Spanish name. Its range spans the semi arid lands of Baja and Alta California, although some species of Manzanita (Archostaphylos) grow all the way up the West Coast to British Columbia. This one lives in Yosemite National Park.