The darks and the lights: Travel sketches of palms


Study of palm trunk with canna. Done plein air with studio finishing. A learning piece.

The family and I went to Tucson for a couple of days and I had a lot of art time which was great.  I sketched in the hotel courtyard, and also from photos on my phone while in the car.  That was a great use of time!  I saw the local watercolor guild’s new gallery which was lovely, saw some great public art, and just soaked in the atmosphere.
Palm tree trunks (like pinecones) have always intrigued me.  I find them difficult to draw to understand and paint, but I guess for me that’s part of their allure.  And I adore the mixing of siennas/oranges and blues to make the various wood tones.

I did this sketch in my sketchbook one morning.

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sketchbook pages

The right side image of a palm was done sketching with the Elegant Writer pen that wets and bleeds the first time you touch it.  It adds a neat effect. Leslie White has fabulous paintings done with this pen,  Check out her blog.  Her dog piece is one of my favorites with this pen.

Another morning I attempted the plein air piece.  It may have gone better if it weren’t for the arrival of the flies when the humidity rose abruptly.  Ah the joys of painting outside!  

Cropped portion of palm trunk

Cropped portion of palm trunk

So I took it home and worked on it some more this morning.  It isn’t perfect by any means, but I learned a lot from it and will hopefully paint a better one, fresh in the studio. I like portions of it a lot, such as this cropped piece of it.

These two sketches were in a large sketchbook, done in the car on the way home from photos, and helped me understand the structure of the plant better.

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Trunk/canna sketch

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Trunk/canna sketch

I was reading a chapter in The Watercolor Fix-It Book (vanHasselt and Wagner) on alternation, or creating a checkerboard pattern of lights and darks in various interesting shapes through your piece.  So as I sketched, I was envisioning alternating lights and darks and enhancing those patterns with shadows on the surface.  I’m sure it will take me a long time to naturally include that concept in my work.

it’s a great book by the way.  The link takes you to a website called Worldcat, where you can put in your zipcode and find the book in a library near you.



2 thoughts on “The darks and the lights: Travel sketches of palms

  1. Yay! You tried the pen.Good for you coming up with using it on a journal page. I think it would be an awesome addition for that. I also like that about the checkerboard design. What I like most about yours is the use of those diagonals as a backdrop to the single flower.


    • Thank you Leslie. The contrast with the diagonals and the bloom caught my eye, but the next time I will position the bloom in the sweet spot. And also understand the diagonals! thank you for your encouragement.


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