23.5" x 36"
Conservation Area, Southern Ontario, Canada
Old trees are highly prized for their character and history. People find them inspiring and awesome. Advertisements for arboreta boast about their oldest inhabitants not new plantings. Since the tree in this painting is well over two feet in diameter, it is probably about 150 years old, based on the calculation that it takes about 5 years for a Sugar Maple to grow an inch in girth. Its advanced age gave me so much to look at the textured bark, the huge irregular limbs, and a shelf fungus protruding from it. Looking at the painting, someone even saw a face in the trunk.
In contrast, the young saplings surrounding the ancient tree are rather predictable. The structure of their branches is even and regular. Of course, youthful vigor is beautiful too. Younger trees can resist the onslaught of winter a little longer. These young trees were just turning color when I painted this picture, while the old Maples leaves had turned color earlier and were, at the time of the painting, already past their prime. From a compositional point of view, the faded leaves were useful. They enhanced the color of the young tree by contrast. I was impressed with how this old tree had created its own environment. Broken limbs and piles of leaves from many autumn seasons surrounded it. The young trees are likely its offspring. The abundance of leaves it produced was obvious as I slogged through the heavy leaf litter in the fall. The chemical contribution of Maple leaves to the soil, although not obvious, is also important. It includes calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen.
Sugar Maples (Acer saccharum) favor the cold. They stretch from Wisconsin across the great lakes and Mid West right out to the coast, and up the coast from New York to the Canadian Maritime provinces. Further south, Sugar Maples keep to higher elevations where it is colder. So you will find them in all their beautiful fall colors in the western parts of Virginia and North Carolina.