Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Peeling Manzanita

Peeling Manzanita, Volcan Mountain
18x24 Oil on panel

One of the pure pleasures of hiking on Volcan mountain is walking through an extensive tunnel of manzanita at the base of the Five Oaks Trail. Never before I first ventured to Volcan Mountain had I found myself enclosed by a tangled forrest of 10 to 12 foot high manzanitas. Such a pleasure! As long as I can remember I have loved manzanita's satisfyingly smooth bark that seems to glow with an inner light. It's trunks and branches look almost animal, as if there are muscles rippling under the surface of the warm and lusterous surface.

The plants are interesting all year, producing delicate blossoms, berries of multiple colors, and then they do this! Starting around May the trunks and branches start shedding their old bark. As the plants grow, cracks develop and the old bark begins to roll up into tight curlicues. The newly exposed bark is a bright green but transitions within a matter of days into the gorgeous orange, red, purple colors the plants are known for.  The color combination lit my art heart on fire, and I felt like giggling when I focused on the curling shapes of the old bark.

Like a snake, the plant sheds the outer skin that has protected it for the year. Tannins make the bark bitter and even toxic to some invasive organisms, and they also give the plant it's distinctive coloring. By November the shedding process is complete, and all the old curled up bark has blackened and fallen away. The new bark has matured into it's luminous reds, oranges and purples and is silky once again. 

The finished painting is at the top of the post.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

High Summer Manzanita

High Summer Manzanita
Volcan Mountain
12x16 oil on panel

By early August the pace of my hikes up Volcan Mountain was slowed by the heat. The upside was that I spent even more time than usual with my favorite plants, observing their changes since I visited with them 3 weeks prior. Most plants were pulling down in the heat of summer. My hiking partner suggested that summer probably wasn't a great time to find plants doing much of interest. Shortly after we came across this manzanita that was doing all sorts of showy things at once. He nodded appreciatively and promised to never dismiss mother nature for a day much less an entire season!

My value scheme for the painting

Mid way through laying in the first layer of color

All light and shadow, warm and cool is established

After several days of refining the details the painting is complete