20" x 24"
Click the thumbnails on the left to see a section of the painting in greater detail.
Lake Superior, North Shore, Minnesota, United States
People are short compared to birch trees. Whenever I have approached a birch tree to get a closer look all I can see is its trunk. Consequently, in my other paintings, birch trees are either visual exclamation points - streaks of white accent beside a lake or meadow - or mainly trunks. Before this I had not painted from the perspective of inside of the branches of a mature birch, 33 feet (10 m) above the ground.
The tree that you see here was growing beside a high bridge over which I was walking. When I passed, it took my breath away. I wanted to jump into it and rock it back and forth. The feeling was one of health and youthful vigor. I included only tiny glimpses of sky in the composition to emphasize the point that it is not necessary to see beyond this tree. The bark was so much richer visually than a white streak. The various shades of bright green leaves added to this richness.
My impression of youthful exuberance fits perfectly with what I understand to be the role of the paper birch in forest ecology. They grow rapidly and vigorously, quickly covering the forest after a fire and providing protection for slower-growing trees like hemlocks or oaks. Vigor is the hallmark of the birch. It shoots up like a rocket. To understand it, you need to experience it in full throttle. The price it pays for rapid growth is short life; it will not become a giant of the forest, old, gnarled, and majestic.
Paper birches (Betula papyrifera) can be seen throughout Canadian forests, in the very Northern United States and throughout the high regions of the Appalachian Mountains into Northern Georgia. This particular one lives on the North Shore of Lake Superior, Near Duluth, Minnesota.