The Collective: Tina’s Maple Leaf & “Seeing”

Dear Laura,

It was exciting to read the poetry you sent in the last mailed Collective package.  I chose to create this new piece from the poem you wrote about the maple tree seed.

I have been thinking about observation drawing and its place in an artist’s practice.  It can be confusing because to the casual eye it may seem the artist is simply trying to capture exactly how the object is.  Realism is simply a skill that anyone can learn given time and the willingness to work for it.  I have seen it as a teacher over and over again if you don’t believe me!  I tell my students there is no such thing as talent…only hard work. This isn’t a new idea.  Better writers like Elizabeth Gilbert, Seth Godin, Frederick Franck, Ted Orland, and Malcolm Gladwell (and so many more) have written on this topic and are worth the inspiring reads.  Back to my point- drawing realistically is more than a skill or representing the likeness of something.  It can be a way of ‘seeing’.

My realistic rendition of the maple seed allowed me time to see the tiny veins in each seed, the color shifting from yellow to gold to pink, the smooth outside edges vs. the curved and bumpy inside edges, and its intricate V design which allows for it ‘helicopter’ great distances.

I started with a 6B graphite stick and smudger to block in the shading of the overall shape. A sharp 3B pencil allowed me to add the swooping tiny vein paths from the seed to the outside ‘fan’ shapes.

Lastly, I added the watercolor.  Like you, I have had a renewed interest in watercolor paint.  Previously I was using pastel, which wasn’t mailing to you very well.  It’s loose nature smudges often changing the integrity of the original drawing.  I think the watercolor is a better solution.

For me, observation drawing is an act which slows me down and allows me time to see something new.  It allows time for me to get curious and ask questions about what I see.  Scientists in the biomimicry field are looking to nature for fresh ideas on inventions.  Check out what they are thinking and learning from the maple seed!

This time of year I am usually in a reflective mood as my teaching year winds down. I am thinking about what went well and what I want to improve for next year.  This type of reflective observation drawing is a great transitional exercise to my summer schedule in the studio.

See you soon in Asheville, NC!

p.s. doesn’t this seed look like a heart?


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