Native Trees of Canada


the native trees of canada
Drawn & Quarterly, 2010
96 pages

While shopping in the used-book store the Monkey's Paw in Toronto, Leanne Shapton happened upon a 1956 edition of the government reference book The Native Trees of Canada, originally published in 1917 by the Canadian Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources. Most people might simply view the book as a dry cataloging of a banal subject; Shapton, however, saw beauty in the technical details and was inspired to create her own interpretation of The Native Trees of Canada.

Shapton distills each image into its simplest form, using vivid colors in lush ink and house paint. She takes the otherwise complex objects of trees, pinecones, and seeds and strips them down into bold, almost abstract shapes and colors: the water birch is represented as two pulsating red bulbs contrasted against a gray backdrop; the eastern white pine is represented by a close-up of its cone against a radiant summer sky.

"Leanne Shapton’s The Native Trees of Canada will likely make forest rangers shake their heads in disbelief. 'Why is that basswood leaf turquoise?' they will ask. Or, 'What’s with the fuscia alpine lark branch?' Devotees of the New York City-based artist and author’s work, on the other hand, will nod theirs in delight as they peruse the 84 renderings of deciduous and coniferous life in the replica sketchbook... Her enchanting new national forest was inspired by a government reference book of the same name found in a used bookstore in Toronto." - Maclean's Magazine