40 x 48 in | 101.6 x 121.9 cm
Although the subject of this painting is obviously a tree, I named it “Mountain Clouds” because the mountains were indirectly responsible for the graceful shape of both the clouds and the tree. The mountains created the wind currents that blew the clouds into ragged tatters. And the mountains shaped the tree as well, at least indirectly. In the valley Aspen trees are crowded together so they grow straight trunks like telephone poles to complete for light. But on steep mountain sides at higher elevations there are few places for trees to get a foothold. Here the Aspen are solitary. Since they need not compete for light they do not need to grow tall and straight. Here their branches can begin to spread nearer to the ground. The result is a crown of gracefully curving branches, breathtaking when outlined with new snow against a cobalt blue sky.
Since this was the first snowfall of the year the snow had not yet covered the land with a uniform white blanket. The snow sat on the trees like blobs of cotton decorations. As if that decoration weren’t enough the last leaves of fall were still hanging from the tree like brightly colored ornaments. There is another surprising bit of color in the scene as well. In the lower right is a cluster of trees that are probably Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana), hanging with bright red berries.
This Aspen (Populus tremuloides) is lucky to live in the mountains where it doesn’t have to compete for light. The downside is that it is an excellent lightning rod during mountian storms. Notice that the middle main trunk is broken off at the top. Also notice that the twin tops of the fir tree in the lower right hand corner are also bare. They have probably been struck by lightening too.