New Growth

It was a bit rainy yesterday, so I was thrilled to see the sunlight on the porch this morning. In addition to visiting my pink flower, I took a look at Arthur, my pet avocado sapling. Those of you who follow my blog probably know the saga of Arthur. It was touch and go for a while, but I think he’s going to make it.

Today’s experiment

I took the following photograph of Arthur’s new growth:

Photo - Avocado tree new growth

Arthur’s New Growth – Photo

What struck me (in addition to the fact that Arthur is alive), was the way the light struck the dominant leaf. The photograph doesn’t do it justice, but in real life, it appears as if one half is the negative of the other. In the right half, the areas between the side veins is dark; the other half is light. The veins in the right half are lighter than the background; those on the left half are dark.

First stage

After sketching the tufts of leaves at the top (this time in pencil – my charcoal sketch from a few days ago didn’t reveal that the top of the plant was actually new growth), I applied latex resist along the lines of the veins. After it was dry, I washed two of the leaves with lemon yellow (my favorite).

Watercolor Study - Avocado tree new growth

Arthur’s New Growth 1
7″x5″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

Second stage

I lost track of which green pigments I used for which areas, but I used the palette with Chrome green, Olive green, and Phthalo yellow green.  I noticed a hint of red on the dark side of the leaf, so I used Burnt Sienna.

Watercolor Study - Avocado tree new growth 2

Arthur’s New Growth 2
7″x5″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

I wasn’t sure this would work, but it seemed to be the right shade. I had a little trouble with the side leaves, at this stage.

Third stage

Watercolor Study - Avocado tree new growth 3

Arthur’s New Growth 3
7″x5″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

The latex rubber mask is still in place. In this stage, I worked on the side leaves. It was a problem getting the appropriate contrast between the bottom-most leaf and the stem to the leaf above it.

Fourth stage

Watercolor Study - Avocado tree new growth 4

Arthur’s New Growth 4
7″x5″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

I wanted to see if I could glaze the main leaf. Lemon yellow didn’t seem to be a problem on the left half, since it was illuminated by direct sunlight in the photograph. However, I had to find a transparent green that would serve as a glaze for the left side. It would have to tone down the red coloration left by the Burnt Sienna.  I looked it up and found that Sap green is transparent.  Sap green – Arthur is a sapLING. Perfect.

Last stage

Finally, I removed the latex and applied the shadows to the left hand side. I used Shadow Green by Holbein for this. On the right side, I used Phthalo yellow green.

Watercolor Study - Avocado tree new growth 5

Arthur’s New Growth 5
7″x5″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

I’m reasonably happy with this. I should fix the dark smudge on the leftmost leaf.

6 thoughts on “New Growth

  1. A remarkable recovery. And Sap Green was serendipitous. It would be interesting to know whether your likes are for Arthur’s renewal or your wonderful progress as a painter 🙂 I enjoyed the paintings of Arthur dying as much as in recovery so I think I am following you mostly 🙂 Hope you get a dryer day today. Rain is forecast here in northern England but it’s not started yet…


    • Yes, Arthur’s progress is very gratifying indeed. Thank you for your kind remarks about my painting. In essence, however, I think I am avoiding the Klee-ian pathway of expressing myself. I just can’t seem to make that leap to expressing what is not visible. Copying nature is, of course a great way to sharpen one’s powers of observation and improve one’s skills, but I think one needs a kind of mentor for the other mode of expression. I really appreciate your interest, your comments and the fact that you are following me in my painting and other musings.
      All the best,


    • Thank you, W.U.! I’m glad my pictures inspire your interest in plants. They are really interesting and beautiful to observe. Unlike people, they don’t seem to feel self-conscious when I draw their portraits or take their picture, or at least I am not aware that they do.
      I wonder what’s going to happen when Arthur’s tap root outgrows the biggest pot I have. I hate to leave him to the whim of the next generation…


  2. Likely you will have many months of enjoyment using Arthur as a model. In truth we recognized new growth from the charcoal sketch. Like Liz, it is amazing to see your daily experiments with watercoloring. You’ve out done yourself with these leaves. As if you have some kind of relationship with Arthur, and your lines and brush strokes are making visible the invisible images of this relationship. Hat’s off to you both.


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