22" x 18"
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Cuyamaca Mountains, California, United States
I remember the first time I saw the Coulter Pine. My wife and I were hiking in the mountains of Southern California with our four-year old daughter. As usual, there was a particular tree that I wanted to find as a subject for painting. I was hunting the Coulter Pine (Pinus coulteri), named after its discoverer, Thomas Coulter, an early 19th century physician. We had a rough idea of where we might find it. I knew it had huge pine cones, exactly what we needed to give a four-year old a sense of adventure and keep her from wanting to be carried. She charged around under the trees as if she were on an Easter egg hunt. In no time at all she was carrying this enormous cone, more than a foot long, about half as wide and weighing somewhere around five pounds! She was so proud of herself.
As a painter I’m interested in the Coulter Pine and other dry land pines because they are such fitting symbols of the Southwest. The characteristic that defines the forests of the Southwest is their light foliage that lets in the sun. There are often open spaces between the trees which are covered with wildflowers and dry grass. The flowers tend to have pale, grayish green foliage, another adaptation to the dry conditions. While the floor of a northern pine forest is often dark because of the thick canopy, dry land pines of the Southwest tend to let the sun shine through because their leaves are thin and sparse. Even back lighted trunks are alive with reflected light. Shadows are sharp and clear but not very dark because the whole area is bathed in light.
The Coulter Pine needles are almost a foot long and clustered in star-bursts at the end of the branches. Combine this feature with the sun and the wind and you have a thousand pinwheels spinning in the sun. Counter Pines live only in Southern California. This particular group lives in the Cuyamaca Mountains.