Sycamores (platanus occidentalis) are magnificent trees. In fact, the Canadian flag actually features a sycamore so don’t believe your Grade 1 teacher about that being a maple leaf. While the leaves are perfectly nice, it is the bark which fills me with joy. Mottled in irregular plates of taupe, cream, pale yellow and green-brown, this species is beautiful in the extreme when it is planted as a specimen tree. Sycamores grace golf courses throughout the GTA so bravo to the course designers who thought to include them.
You will note that the branching is haphazard; unlike solitary elms,whose classic urn shape might feature a pendant oriole nest, a sycamore has more of a Medusa shape, giving it the impression of having changed its mind frequently. I personally like its gnarly habit.
Background colour of burnt oranges and russets comes from maples behind the sycamore, which is bare. Only its top branches are still catching the sun, somewhat bleached by its low-angle intensity. Lower down, the trunk is cast in cerulean blue shadow, and a mysterious plume of steam rises to complete the magic. All I got done today was to tone the 30 x 40 canvas and block in the sycamore itself.
But the dye is cast. I’ve gone and made a promise I have to keep. Sometimes the only way I can face a big painting is to announce its conception. Now I will feel obliged to tackle it seriously. I see major backaches here (literally) but also the promise of something lovely and exotic. Besides, the “shapers” Lyla so thoughtfully gave me for Christmas are just the tools I will need to detail the fine background.