48" x 32"
Conservation Area, Nepean, Ontario, Canada
Painting white birches in the snow reminds me of the joke that kids like to play. They ask if you like their drawing, which is nothing but a blank piece of paper. When you look puzzled they explain that it’s a drawing of a polar bear in the snow. I was reminded of this story when I considered painting this scene because the colors of the landscape in the North on cloudy days after a snowfall are very subtle.
But, after walking through the woods for a while my eyes adjust to the dull colors allowing me to see just enough color in this scene to find it an exciting challenge. I begin to see green in the leaves of the little Spruce tree in the foreground although they are dull compared to the fresh new leaves of spring. I begin to see the blush of mauve in the background, the little flecks of orange in the remnants of fall leaves, streaks of pink on the birch trunks and a range of brown colors on the trunks of the little Maple saplings.
After a while I’m not even aware of how subtle the winter colors are. Enter the Cardinals. The Cardinals’ brilliant colors provide a striking contrast that throws the whole winter palette into perspective. Cardinals seem to belong to another region. In fact, they do. Cardinals have traditionally been a southern bird until the last few decades when parks and bird feeders have enabled them to move north. When I lived in the North I was grateful that they stayed with us all winter. Apparently my feelings are widely shared. The Cardinal is the official bird in seven U.S. states.
Both the White Birch, or Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) and the White Spruce (Picea Glauca) live throughout Canada, Alaska and some northern States.