Monday, August 26, 2019

The Pyracantha Challenge

8/19/19 Maple Leaf neighborhood

The traffic circle a few blocks up from our house is suddenly bursting with color. No, not fall color (though that will come soon enough): long clusters dripping with bright red-orange berries. After a little research, I concluded that the plant is probably pyracantha (or firethorn).

Identifying the plant was the easy challenge. The second was more difficult. Most branches were in shade, while a few were in sunlight; how do I show the difference? I recalled the exercise from Suzanne Brooker’s colored pencil class a couple of years ago in which we were to draw trees using three pencils only: A green for the mid-value; a warm yellow for the sunny side; and a cool blue for the shaded side. I wasn’t sure if this would work with orange berries, but lacking other ideas, I gave it a go.

First, I colored the berry branches with a base of bright orange. Then I applied a very warm yellow over the branches that caught the sun, and I did the same with indigo over the shaded branches (and since blue is the complement of orange, I thought it would be a good choice on two counts). After spritzing the area with water, I dotted all the branches with green for texture and to indicate some of the foliage. I think the ones in sunlight could have used more yellow and less orange to emphasize the light, but otherwise, I like the result.

Now that I’ve quit using a gray marker as my cheating tool of choice, Im working on learning to show values with color.


  1. This has got to be the most sketched piece of land in all of Seattle :-) I haven't seen pyracantha bushes since I left Arizona.

    1. Ha-ha-ha!! Who would have thought little ol' Maple Leaf would be so picturesque? ;-)


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