They are my subject matter and have been for a long time — more than 40 years.
My father introduced me to trees when I was very young, while he was a professor at the College of Forestry at SUNY (the State University of New York), in Syracuse, New York. Trees have been a part of my life ever since.
I believe trees are powerful, both symbolically and physically.
We can see ourselves, our character, our passions and our efforts in their many forms.
Trees can be elegant and stately, but often they may grow bent and twisted. Like people, they begin as youthful and fresh, then age, break and wither. Artistically they are allegorical. Every one of them is unique, like us.
Wherever I travel, I study the trees.
The world contains a bounty of arboreal treasures. Toronto is no exception; the city is blessed with a wealth and variety of trees, second to none.
Most of my tree paintings are not exact copies of existing trees. Rather, to make a unique tree painting, I use multiple sources, including my own drawings, memories of trees that have inspired me and photographs of specific and various trees I’ve seen during my travels, in Toronto and elsewhere.
To create a painting, I combine all these elements to invent a tree image that has the emotional impact I want. I believe trees are capable of expressing a wide range of human feelings, which is why I approach my art in this way.
My painting titled “Kimunu” (an oil painting that measures 81 by 102 cm, or 32 by 40 inches) is inspired by cherry blossom season in Toronto’s High Park.
I used many different photos of blossoming cherry trees for inspiration as I created this painting, which now hangs in a private collection in Montreal. The end result is the lush colour of the tree resonating intensely against the dark background.
For me, as an artist, black acts as an anchor.
Classical artists, including Rembrandt and Velazquez, often used a technique of painting against a dark ground. They did this to achieve dramatic impact and strong chiaroscuro effects, or a striking interplay of light and shadow. I sometimes use these same methods in my tree paintings so those who view the art will be moved emotionally.
We live in a world that feels so fragile. The fires of the Amazon are terrifying. As the trees burn, we are diminished.
In my art, I try to use trees to reinforce our spirit, bring pleasure, but also fear of loss.
I often think of The Lorax, a character in Dr. Suess’s book of the same name, who says: “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”
I hope my paintings speak for the trees, too."
Sat., Sept. 21, 2019