JON MESSER: THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY

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CAUSE: 

The Eden Projects -

One of the most successful global reforestation efforts, hiring locals to replant their trees. 

Eucalyptus - 12'' x 18'' - Watercolor on Paper

Eucalyptus - 12'' x 18'' - Watercolor on Paper

    For many years Eucalyptus trees were iconic to the California landscape, yet  they are not a native plant. Imported from Australia they were first planted in rows along proposed railway corridors. Prior to the building of railroads they were intended to be used as timber for cross ties. Unfortunately for the railroad barons the wood proved too brittle for that purpose. The stands of trees grew to maturity and it was found that they were a lovely and effective windbreak.  In my life I’ve heard they were planted as windbreaks for farmers, and I wonder if that was a secondary purpose. It makes sense as I’ve seen them grown in rows where no railroad was intended. The plein-air movement in California recorded many romantic scenes of the landscape with grove upon grove of Eucalptus. 

    I find Eucalyptus beautiful; their sculptural trunks supporting soft clumps of leaves that drip down creating a sinuous profile. Recently the population of Eucalyptus has suffered as a result of a bark beetle infestation, and many of the stands of trees I have admired have disappeared. The pressure of development has also removed many trees. Anyone who had the pleasure of driving north from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, passing through Camarillo in the 1960’s and 70’s might recall the dense groves that grew along the roadside. Gone when then the freeway was expanded to accommodate greater levels of traffic.

    This painting is of a Eucalyptus tree near my house that I have walked by many times. For ten years I told myself I’d paint it. Finally I passed it in early morning light. The bark reflecting the bright sunlight  created a satin-like sheen that was mesmerizing. So the next morning I set up early, drew the tree as the sun rose, and painted it at that moment when the light was striking the trunk fully.