Smoky Mountains in Early Spring (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

Smoky Mountains in Early Spring (sold)  |  Richard G. Tiberius

36 inches (91.4 cm.) wide by 24 inches (61 cm) high

A friend mistakenly assumed this was an autumn scene because of all the colors even though he had spent many days as a boy hiking in the these mountains. I’m not surprised. Most of us have never seen the spring colors. They last only a few days in April or May when we can’t get away for a holiday. By the time summer arrives the colors are masked by green chlorophyll. Since plants make the red, yellow and violet pigments responsible for these spring colors much more quickly than they can make chlorophyll, the other colors appear first. Then the underlying colors appear again in the fall when the chlorophyll dies off, unmasking them.

Click for detail.

The brilliant red bits on the tall Red Maple (Acer rubrum) trees are not leaves but little winged seeds, commonly called “keys”. Botanists call them “samaras”. When dry they float down off the trees, spinning as they go. Kids in my neighborhood used to split open the ends and stick them on their noses.

The Golden colors are a combination of the new leaves and flowers of oak trees, mainly Red Oak (Quercus rubra). The white and pink flowers are from Juneberry Trees, also known as Serviceberry or Shadbush. The genus is Amelanchier but I’m not sure which of the three species represented in the smoky Mountains is the one that I painted.

Painting mist—the “smoke” in the Smoky Mountains—is tricky for a knife painter. If I were using brushes I could have mixed a pale wash and brushed it over the underlying scene. But to create the effect of mist with a knife, the colors had to be adjusted so that the background appeared lighter, duller and shifted toward the blue-violet end of the spectrum. These are the changes that take place in light when it is filtered through a dense atmosphere.

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