24 x 30 in. | 61 x 76.2 cm
As a painter of trees, I’ve earned a reputation among friends as someone who can help identify them. One of the common confusions is between trees that have pale bark. Distinguishing aspen (Populus tremuloides) from white birch (Betula papyrifera) is particularly difficult because they both have smooth, light-colored bark. North American beeches (Fagus grandifolia) are less often confused with the other two but it does happen, especially when the normal grey bark of the beech takes on blue reflections from the snow, as in this painting. Aspens exist in a range of colors from yellowish and greenish shades to almost white. The bark of the aspen in this painting is one of the greener tones. White Birch also show a range of colors, although their variation is more restricted. Some are chalk white, but most are off-white, with shades of ochre and pink.
I smiled when I ran across this group of trees on a hike through a northern forest. There they were, all three of the species that have pale bark, providing a perfect opportunity for me to contrast the differences in paint. It was a lucky sighting because mature beech trees do not usually grow in close proximity to birches and aspen. Birch and aspen are the first to rapidly colonize newly opened land that has been burned or clear-cut. Usually beech arrive much later, growing slowly in the dappled light that filters through the loose canopies of the birch and aspen. Conversely, in a mature beech forest, you rarely see birch or aspen, which are too intolerant of shade to grow under the tight canopy of the beeches. I did not have to exaggerate the colors to make the point but tried to render the colors faithfully as they appeared in the several photographs I had taken. The differences in the colors of the bark even surprised me when I saw them beside one another in the painting.