Crispy Leaves

You may have heard about the drought in California. It has been warm, and it only rains now and then. I’ve noticed that the leaves from the magnolia (or whatever that tree is out front, with the white flowers), are on the ground. They are a wonderful golden brown color – from this artist’s point of view. Not so wonderful from the tree’s perspective, which I am sure would prefer a greener version of the leaf, attached to itself instead of laying on the ground.

I couldn’t resist taking this picture:

Photograph: Dried Leaves on the Ground

Crispy Leaves

Today’s watercolor experiment:

There was something about these two leaves laying on the ground and their illumination by the afternoon sun, that compelled me to snap the photograph.  In order to make this image my own, I felt it necessary to reproduce it in my own hand.

I began with a sketch. Just a basic outline. I have done a couple of semi realistic versions of leaves: Fallen Fig Leaf, Another Leaf. The colors of the leaves in the photograph above vary so subtly that I didn’t think I could do it justice.

I approximated the colors of the shiny leaf, with yellow-tinted pigments of quinacridone gold and raw sienna. The reddish burnt umber was the appropriate pigment for the edges. The other leaf fared well with raw umber and quinacridone nickel.

Watercolor: Dried Leaves on the Ground

Crispy Leaves
16″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Another look at the photograph and I realized, part of the attraction of these two leaves was the illumination of the surrounding grass. I tried replicating this dramatic lighting. I had to apply several washes of neutral tint to get the dark tone that I wanted and dabbed a paper towel on it to create some texture.

I’m a tad disappointed that I did not capture the subtle differences in lighting of the grassy bed on which the leaves lay. I applied strokes of white gouache in the darker areas in order to show stray light reflected from dead grass from the shadow.


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