Fallen Fig Leaf

Today’s watercolor experiment:

Yesterday’s post was a rendition of a grouping of fig leaves in situ on the fig tree in our back yard. I was attracted by the fall colors and shadows. I left the composition without unifying the disparate shapes of the different color/shading values, leaving a rather abstract collection of forms.

Today, I sketched a single fig leaf that had fallen to the ground. The leaf was in an early stage of decay, edges curling and some autumn coloration in evidence.


Reference photo:

Digital Photo: Fall Fig Leaf Fallen on the Ground

Fallen Fig Leaf
Digital Photo

As usual, I began with a pencil sketch, marking the areas in shadow. Unlike yesterday’s composition, I began painting the positive shape of the leaf.  I used the green-tinted lemon yellow and the warmer cadmium yellow pale as the first layer of color on the leaf shape.

The quinacridone burnt orange pigment seemed a perfect choice for the rust-colored, crispier parts of the leaf. I did have a little difficulty with the shadow areas under the curled edges. I used a combination of Van Dyke brown and yellow ochre, but their opaqueness imparted a muddiness I was not expecting.

After I had the basic coloration of the leaf blocked out, I began sketching the background. I used the Moonglow pigment from Daniel Smith, that has a purple hue, together with a neutral tint pigment for the rocks. I used Buff Titanium (Daniel Smith) and Van Dyke brown for the remainder of the background: the different shades of soil on the lower right side of the paper. I glazed the entire area surrounding the leaf outline with the semi-transparent Payne’s gray (Sennelier). This had the effect of bringing the leaf into the foreground a bit. It also flattened out and obscured the shades of the soil that I had just applied.

I found that it was necessary to outline the edges of the leaf so the shape within the lines would be clear. I also detailed some of the veins, outlining some of them with white, to mimic the effect seen in the photo.

Watercolor: Fig Leaf Fallen on the Ground

Fallen Fig Leaf
12″x9″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block


I like this piece. It is not abstract, as was my composition of yesterday. But it also does not have the three-dimensionality of the photograph. I don’t feel bound by the need to imitate the photo, but I would have liked the leaf to be a bit more separated from the background.

3 thoughts on “Fallen Fig Leaf

  1. I can’t wait to get back to esperimenting with watercolour myself.. This looks really good. Does the figg-tree actually carry any fruit in the summer? This summer i was in north africa, and i could pick the figgs directly from the wild figg-tree’s brances.. The most delecious and sweet figgs i have ever tasted! I’m pretty convinced that we can’t get any figgs here in Denmark, although some people do have the trees in the gardens.


    • Thank you, Thomas. Yes, the fig tree carries a lot of fruit in the summertime. By the time they’re ripe, the squirrels and birds have eaten most of them. This particular tree produces red figs. The one in the neighbor’s yard gives black figs.
      Thanks again for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Ma Jia Zi (Paliurus ramosissimus) | Find Me A Cure

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