|10/19/18 Greenwood neighborhood|
It had been a couple of weeks since I sketched the maples at Metropolitan Market, and they were still at the peak of color when I shopped there last Saturday, so I thought I would have one more opportunity to sketch them before the color was gone. Alas, yesterday afternoon, the brilliant oranges and reds were now more brown, and half the leaves were already on the ground. I was too late.
Suddenly feeling panicky, I drove west to the Greenwood neighborhood to see how my favorite maples on Dayton Street were doing. . . could they be near the end already, too? It had been more than a month since I sketched them when the color was just beginning on the northern tree (on the right). Now that one was well past its prime, and the southern tree had lost some leaves, too. Again, I was too late.
On the upside, it was warm enough that I could sketch from the sidewalk instead of in my car as I usually do, so I was able to get a slightly different angle on the intersection for a change.
Process note: I sketch these trees every fall, almost always at about the same time of day (early afternoon), so presumably the sun is always at about the same angle. Yet yesterday was the first time I saw – really saw – how much of the lower part of the trees was in shade. When I look back now at all the sketches that I made at around the same time in October, I can see that I haven’t captured that shade well. I had always been so dazzled by color – which is easy to see even in shade if you know it’s there – that I unconsciously ignored the lighting. (This is exactly what I’m referring to when I talk about how distracting color can be and how it keeps me from seeing and understanding values.)
Just the other day I had read Shari Blaukopf’s blog post about the challenge of painting trees when they are half in light, half in shade. Having her post in mind, as well as all my recent work in value studies (in formal classes and in self-study), I focused my attention this time on trying to convey the light in the tops of the trees and, by contrast, the shade on the lower half.
It’s amazing to me how much I don’t see until I suddenly see it – and how many years it takes to finally see it. But unlike these trees that I wanted to catch at their peak of color, it’s never too late to see.