Big Basin Fern Collection

Today’s watercolor experiment:

Yesterday, after our visit to Big Basin State Park, I composed a watercolor of an interesting collection of fallen and half-fallen trees. The trails were damp and moss was everywhere. I would have taken dozens of photos, but I restrained myself. There was something about the transient observation that I enjoyed. It was different than pointing and clicking the camera to save the experience for later. I tried being lost in the experience in the moment, being immersed in the tree-space with my eyes wide open.

However there is a difference between being in the moment and being able to recall glimpses of it later on. This is where I need help. Ideally I would like to bring my sketch pad and make drawings of what I see in the moment. I am convinced that the eye-hand coordination necessary to reproduce a scene before one’s eyes, makes a person more mindful. Mindful of spatial dimensions and relative sizes. Doing (i.e., sketching) combined with seeing, is a perfect combination of skills for improving memory.

This being said, today’s watercolor, pen and ink composition was derived from one of my photographs.


The light diffusing through a collection of ferns hanging from a branch caught my eye. It was almost like an X-ray. The skeleton of some of the fronds showed through the reddish yellow of their drying greenery. Other, more lush fronds contained many shades of green, with the yellow of the sunlight illuminating the edges.

Watercolor Pen and Ink: Ferns in Big Basin State Park

Big Basin Ferns
9″x6″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

I drew the general shape with number 2 pencil, blocking out the shapes of the individual ferns. I traced them with pen and ink. Once again, I had to tackle the technical problem of highlighting the sunlit areas against a darker background. I squinted my eyes to see the shape of the darker areas and tried to paint their shapes in a combination of Van Dyke brown, quinacridone nickel and yellow ochre.  I may have overdone the dark outlines, but I am closer to the effect I want to portray.

I hope that practice will help me improve even more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: