Pinewoods Overstory and Understory July 19, 2020

Pinewoods – overstory and understory
By Joseph Weinzettle

Florida pinewoods present two very different compositions to the plein-air artist: the overstory and the understory. My plein-air studies took place in Pinellas and Pasco County longleaf and slash pinewoods.

The overstory of pinewoods lends itself to a graphic interpreation – an interplay of positive-negative shapes, linear patterns against sky. The understory is far more dense visually, having a wider range of tonalities, overlapping shadows, overlapping angles and arcs created in the density of plant life.

Longleaf, Cemetery Lot_ink on gesso ground_2020
Saw Palmetto AM Study_ink wash and silverpoint on gesso_2020

The canopy of longleaf pine, framed by oak foliage on the left side, rise over a cemetery lot in Tarpon Springs (above, top). Contrasting the airy overstory view, saw palmetto are prominent in this dense view of the forest floor in which plants, trees, shrubs and fallen branches seem to compete for every available space (above and below).

Heartwood Preserve_in progress_ink wash over silverpoint on gesso_2020
Understory in AM_ink wash on gesso_2020

Longleaf pine will form a monospecific canopy in Florida if fire-maintained in the right soil conditions. However, this is most beneficial for native plants in the understory and wildlife. Longleaf habitat is among the most bio-diverse in North America.

Florida native habitats are rich visual resources for landscape painters and perhaps deserve a re-assessment for their potential as subject matter by Contemporary artists.

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