Painting Leaves from Life

November 12, 2013

“If you draw 1000 trees from life, then the tree you draw from imagination will have great integrity.”
— Frank Ching, quote found in Freehand Drawing and Discovery by James Richards

Watercolor sketch of bur oak leaves and acorns

Watercolor sketch of bur oak leaves and acorns

I am making a dent in drawing 1000 leaves (not trees) this autumn.  Most recently I had the greatest pleasure painting some bur oak leaves and acorns gathered from an historic old tree in Council Grove, Kansas.  Its “sprout date” is believed to be 1694.  According to the historic marker at the site, this bur oak “was part of the original grove that provided shelter, and wood for wagon repairs for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail.”

One of the bloggers I follow, Linda at The Task at Hand, gathered these souvenir acorns and leaves on a recent road trip, and she generously gifted them to me.  Linda knows I am inspired by the natural world to paint, and my encounter with these amazing bur oak leaves and acorns did indeed prompt me to pick up my brush.  The acorns are the biggest I’ve ever seen, and their furry caps make me think of Eskimo parka hoods.  I was surprised that the leaves were not gigantic, too.  I find bigger oak leaves all over the ground here in Washington State.

Thank you again, Linda, for such an extraordinary gift from Nature.

Bur oak leaf and capped acorns

Bur oak leaf and capped acorns

The acorns are huge

The acorns are huge

Comparing a bur oak leaf and acorns (green leaf and acorns on left) to leaf and acorns from Seattle (brown leaf and acorns on right)

Comparing a bur oak leaf and acorns (green leaf and acorns on left) to oak leaf and acorns from Seattle (brown leaf and acorns on right)

Displaying my gift

Displaying my gift

Underlying pencil sketch for my bur oak painting

Underlying pencil sketch for my bur oak painting

9 Responses to “Painting Leaves from Life”

  1. shoreacres Says:

    Oh, what fun! It’s a complete delight to see them already with their portrait done. I’m surprised by the size of the leaves, too. I had assumed the leaves would be large, and I double-checked at several bur oak trees to be sure I hadn’t picked up the “wrong” leaf by mistake. But no – I had the right leaves.

    I’ve learned that bur oaks produce on a cycle that peaks every 5-7 years. I do believe I must have caught them at their peak. I easily could have filled my trunk with them.

    The photo showing the acorns atop the jars is delightful, and as I’ve said before, I take great delight in seeing bits of your process. Life-into-art amazes me. I’m going to be smiling all day long!

  2. Lynne Says:

    Another beautiful painting, Rosemary, and how wonderful to be connected to history through the bur leaves and acorns!

  3. blastedgoat Says:

    This is something I must try! Though I don’t have much experience in life drawing I love learning new skills.

  4. camilla wells paynter Says:

    Beautiful photos and sketch (I always love the wreath-shaped arrangement. This is a really lovely touch, especially for a subject like the oak tree, which so exemplifies the cycles of nature), and the history makes it even more special! I love your display of the acorns on the old Ball jars, too! (They DO look like parka hoods!)

    • Rosemary Says:

      I hadn’t thought of the link between circular wreaths and the cycles of nature. A subtle layer of meaning. Thank you for bringing that aspect out.


  5. Charming. Absolutely charming!


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