28 x 24 in | 71 x 61 cm
Cold nights provoke Red Maples to display some of the brightest colors in the Northern forests. Cold also weakens the stems so that the leaves droop a little. I didn’t notice the drooping at first because I was so taken with the range of color. There were various shades of green through yellow, orange, and several shades of red and carmine. As a gardener I normally associate drooping with a troubled plant but these leaves looked more like ornaments hung on the twigs to celebrate the last days of summer. I couldn’t get that happy image out of my head the whole time I was painting it. After all, falling leaves are the trees’ preparation for winter. Lighten up!
The painting technique was tricky. I often paint close objects like this with a technique called “scumbling” in which I drag my knife loaded with wet paint over paint that has already dried. This technique produces a ragged effect which is excellent for tree bark and rocks, but not so good for leaves that are still fresh. The colors needed to be blended as if they melted into one another. So I had to use a wet-on-wet technique by which I slip one color over another with a very light touch. It was pretty messy at times.
I used a very close perspective—wall to wall leaves—instead of the more typical landscape perspective that shows the contours of the land and other trees in the painting. I did not want to distract the viewer from the image of brightly colored ornaments.
Red Maples (Acer rubrum) are common throughout Eastern North America, from the broadleaf forest belt of Canada to as far south as Florida. This young maple grows in a park in Duluth, Minnesota. I saw it while hiking with my daughter and son-in-law who live in Minneapolis.