Crispier Leaf

The finger that clicks my camera shutter always gets itchy when I see light falling a certain way on an object. A week or so ago, the Crispy Leaves caught its attention; the other day the Crispier Leaf caused me to snap.

Photograph: Desiccated Brown, Pleated Leaf on the Ground

Crispier Leaf – Photo

It looked so simple sitting there. It could have been a sea shell that I stopped to inspect. This leaf had stripes! It seemed so simple and geometric. I bet I could have taken a ruler, extended the lines of the shadows and discovered that they all met at one point.

Today’s experiment:

What could be more straightforward and simple to paint? I would guide my brush in slow arcs, imitating the pleated surface of this once-flat leaf, allow space for a stripe of lighter color and make another brown arc.

It was not easy as it looked. Today’s study was one of the most frustrating ones I have done in a long time. The initial sketch was fine. I imitated the curves pretty well. Then I started on the far left end and tried to paint all the lightly shaded areas, leaving the brightest ones blank to let the paper white serve for the lightest tone. I worked my way right, across the leaf.

I tried to repeat myself for the darker tones. Then I got a bit confused. The sections along the central vein did not match up! The gradations of tone on the upper half of the subject had a much smaller range than the lower half.

I did the best I could, painted a grassy shadow under the leaf and some green blotches above, and stopped painting.

Watercolor: Desiccated Brown, Pleated Leaf on the Ground

Crispier Leaf
12″x16″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

I had to try again, this time, reducing the number of variables. I removed color from the equation and tried a sketch.

Sketch: Desiccated Brown, Pleated Leaf on the Ground

Crispier Leaf – Sketch
4″x6″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Still not the best, but I felt more in control with tones from blackest black to the white of the paper.


One of the best (and at the same time, worst) thing about painting and drawing is the number of details of line, shape and shading that emerge the longer one looks at a subject. I sometimes get lost in the details. Other times, I just want to get the idea of my subject on paper: the essence of it.  Both modes of art are worth pursuing and can be very rewarding – if frustration can be conquered.

5 thoughts on “Crispier Leaf

  1. I love the crispier leaf as you photographed it. It appears as perhaps made of copper or a type of burnished metal with special rubbings. When it comes to replicating nature, I always want to see the simplified approach and allow the quality of work to stand on it’s own the same as nature must.
    I’m well acquainted with an artist not being able to leave well enough alone or working on something to where it’s overworked and lost all of it’s original appeal. My husband is a master goldsmith working with gems and precious metals. He does an 18k leaf that’s the most perfect I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Because he does one of a kind pieces, he has to change the design in some way each time he makes a leaf and I’ve seen him agonize days over his sketch pad before going into the studio.

    • Thank you, Sheri. Indeed, agonizing is a good way to describe the relationship between an ideal and the striving of an artist to reach it. Replicating nature is done quite well with a camera. The photographer gets to choose the lighting and framing of the subject and, if the exposure is correct (how could it be otherwise these days), nature is copied onto a 2 dimensional surface. As I see it, it is the job of a visual media artist to selectively ignore certain details in service of simplicity and the furtherance of his or her vision.
      As always, I appreciate your comments. Thank you again.
      Best regards,

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