Red Maple and Sumac in Fall

Red Maple and Sumac in Fall

What excited me about the scene of Red Maple and Sumac was the colors. Not just the intensity of the color, but the range. Sumacs display every hue in the rainbow. My neighbor asked me why I put all those colors in the sumac leaves. Is that real? he asked. He had seen sumacs as a kid, but I don’t think he looked closely enough. Maybe the next time he sees them in the fall, he will.

One of the collectors of my art, Dr. Roger Martin, wrote me the following when he first saw a photo of this painting: “The sumac piece — well, that has a rich feel of community and company in it for me. It made me want to go there, shelter under the rich colours, feel the shade of the branches, the warm company of the quiet water. That’s got an unbelievable appeal for me.” I was delighted that he felt the richness of the colors, as I did. But he felt more. For me the existence of the pond was a lucky accident because it enabled me to reflect the colors of the background. For him it became quiet and warm. How wonderful! I did not think of that but it’s surely there in the scene. And his sheltering in the shade of the Maple, what a comforting image. Actually I came upon the scene rather late in the afternoon. The sun had peeked out for only a few minutes for which I was hugely grateful because of the way it lighted up the leaves. But, again, perhaps earlier in the day, when it was hotter, leaning back on the soft grass, yes, I can see it. It’s so exciting for me to see my paintings from different points of view.

Even when I include botanical characteristics of the plants in writing about my painting the botany is simply a means of achieving a greater sympathy for the subject. I’m in good company here. Thoreau saw no incompatibility between his emotional and scientific approach to trees. Richard Higgins wrote an article in American Forests (summer, 2016) about Thoreau’s “visceral connection” to trees. He writes that “Botany gave him [Thoreau] a way to see the invisible energies of trees and new words to describe them”.

Richard, June 18, 2016

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