Deep in the Cypress Swamp (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

Deep in the Cypress Swamp (sold)  |  Richard G. Tiberius

30 x 42 in | 76.2 x 106.7 cm

I was amazed by the enormous variety of plants growing together in this tropical swamp.  Plants grew out of the water, on top of the water, under the water and even on top of other plants.  I thought that the best perspective to capture this profusion is one that is close to the water.  From a low perspective you are forced to look through the many layers of foliage.  Creating the impression of multiple layers on a flat surface was challenging.  More than once I had to scrape off a frond or twig that I had mistakenly painted in front of something when it should be behind it.  Here is where knife painting has an advantage.  I can add front layers of foliage on top of rear layers, just as it is in reality.

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I had to be careful that the final result wouldn’t look like an impenetrable wall of foliage.  I wanted to retain the feeling of depth.  The strap ferns (Campyloneurum phyllitidis) growing out of the base of the trees helped me create the illusion of depth.  They are a dominant feature of the painting because they glow in the back lighting, and, with two clumps, one nearer and one further, their diminishing size signaled the distance.

An odd feature of this composition is that it is totally back lighted.  The trees have no side light striking their trunks whatsoever.  The trunks appear dull purple in reflected light.  The direct effect of sunlight is reserved for the leaves.  They are either lit up from behind or bouncing the sun off their top surfaces creating brilliant white spots.  In fact, if you turn down the lights in the room while viewing this painting, the trunks and shadowed areas of the water disappear into darkness.  All you can see are glowing and sparkling leaves.

These Pond Cypresses (Taxodium ascendens) are preserved in The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida, run by the Audubon Society.

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