Old Spruce with Green Beard (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

Old Spruce with Green Beard (sold)  |  Richard G. Tiberius

23 x 32 in | 58.4 x 81.3

This old Black Spruce tree, covered with moss and lichen, seemed to jump out at me as I walked by it. I wanted the painting to pop out of the panel as the real tree did. I used saturated colors in the old tree and subdued them considerably in the two younger trees to the right. I also painted the old tree using a highly textured effect while painting the younger trees with a smoother texture. Creating the heavy texture of the lichen was challenging for a knife painter because the lichen filaments were very narrow. I had to touch the panel gently with the edge of the knife blade.

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I was pleased with the results. As you walk past the painting, the old tree seems to move because of the way the light shifts as it hits the ridges of paint from different angles. Unfortunately, viewers who are looking at a photograph of the painting cannot see this effect.

When I think about how much I enjoyed viewing and painting this moss, I realize how dramatically my feelings were affected by my understanding of Nature. Years ago, before I found out that the moss does not hurt the tree, I would have been saddened by the sight of such an advanced “infestation”. However, the moss takes no nourishment from the tree. The spongy bark of an old Black Spruce merely provides an ideal anchor. The moss makes food through its own chlorophyll. The green tones looked even more beautiful to me as I thought about the self-sufficiency of the moss. Imputing morality to the plants is a little silly, but I think it is difficult for humans to refrain from viewing Nature through our own values.

Black spruce (Picea mariana) forests can be seen in every province in Canada, in Alaska and in the northeastern United States.  It is the Provincial tree of Newfoundland and Labrador. This old specimen grows in Le Parc de la Jacques-Cartier, in Québec.

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