Blackjack and Shortleaf

Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee
August 2, 2023
Oil on canvas
12 x 16 in. (30.5 x 40.6 cm)


When I chose this composition, I was probably unconsciously following the well-worn landscape convention of framing the view with a foreground tree, but consciously, I was thinking about how the distinctive form of a middle-aged blackjack oak, still in the shade cast by an adjacent woodland, would offer a balancing contrast to the young shortleaf pines that have come up in the savanna since restoration began thirty some years ago.

This is the third of four field paintings from my first visit to the remarkable Catoosa Savanna on the Cumberland Plateau. In the 90s, visionaries in the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency realized a rich native grassland was just waiting to be reawakened here, so after a pine beetle infestation and timber salvage operation they implemented a robust prescribed fire regime. Prairie plants, barely hanging on in the shade of the recent forest, exploded. On my visit, the call of “bob white” seemed fairly constant. Congratulations to the TWRA for (re)creating a magnificent place.