Painting by Philip Juras of an open oak woodland in Pilcher Park, Joliet Illinois.

Pilcher Park Woods

Will County, Illinois
August 26, 2023
Oil on canvas
12 x 16 in. (30.5 x 40.6 cm)

Artist's collection

This composition was in response to a challenge to show the historic, and hopefully restored character of a mesic section of Pilcher Woods Nature Preserve. In it, I represent several of the very old existing oaks that dominate the canopy there, but I have removed the dense understory of sugar maples and greened up the currently brown forest floor. Historically, the maples don’t belong, invading this part of the woods only after fire suppression began many years ago. Today, their heavy shade snuffs out the formerly diverse sun-loving woodland flora and halts oak reproduction, shifting the community to a less diverse, fire-intolerant forest. In my imagined scenario based on both history and the success achieved at other sites, low intensity fires (and selective cutting) have eliminated the shade makers in the so that sunlight once again reaches the ground, giving life and diversity back to this historic woodland.

This field painting was a feature of my co-led Nature Preserve tour at Pilcher Park Woodland Nature Preserve and was painted immediately prior to the arrival of the participants. Here’s how I put it together between 8:10 and 9:50 am (Instagram).