24 x 17 in. | 61 x 43.2 cm
Trees in the Northeast of Canada and the US present a dramatic show of leaf colors in the fall. This show is so spectacular because the various species of trees turn color at roughly the same time. But if trees are stressed, for example by growing too close to the water, they may begin to turn color early. I made this painting based on a canoe trip down Brown’s Creek in late summer when only a few of the trees close to the water, mostly red maples (Acer rubrum), had turned to their fall colors.
Although red maples are very tolerant of wet soil—they can even survive having their roots submerged for short periods of time—too much water stresses them. This ability to tolerate flooding gives the red maple an advantage. It can colonize swampy areas ahead of other species. One of the common names for the red maple is “swamp maple.” But too much water exacts a price. When trees are stressed, they can shut down food production and lose their green chlorophyll, which usually masks the other pigments. The result is this unusual landscape, a soft green backdrop studded with brilliant red color of the maples, a composition that drew my attention.
My wife Joyce and I have navigated a canoe down this winding creek many times. It’s a tricky run because there are lots of rocks and water logged stumps to steer around. But It is always beautiful and full of surprises. Once we startled a deer who lifted her head from the bank where she had been drinking. We have seen ducks, songbirds, great blue herons and even a beaver. Wildlife are unaccustomed to seeing people on this creek because most of the year it is not navigable.
All along the length of the creek were semi-aquatic shrubs like swamp roses (Rosa palustris), high bush cranberries (Viburnum trilobum), Bog Myrtle (Myrica gale) and Button Bushes (Cephalanthus). The tall pine trees (Pinus strobus) on the left and the boulders in shadow framed the composition urging the viewers to imagine themselves paddling quietly through into the sunlight.