Saturday, October 5, 2019

Messy Foliage

10/3/19 Wedgwood neighborhood

So often I’ll find myself with only a small gap of time on a busy day that I want to fill with a sketch, but the most convenient view is a bunch of messy foliage. In fact, let’s be frank – much of what we see in the urban landscape is messy foliage. I’m never particularly driven to sketch such views, but like cars, utility poles and trash bins, messy foliage is unavoidable, so I may as well practice sketching it.

Between appointments in the Wedgwood neighborhood, I took a shortcut down a little-used street and found this long fence. The color on two maples behind the fence stopped me in my tracks. The rest was messy foliage, but that’s urban life.

When I posted this sketch on Instagram, one of my followers commented on the texture I achieved, which I was happy she noticed. I’m pleased with it too, and it’s the combination of Stillman & Birn Beta’s cold press surface and my favorite watercolor pencil tool – my spritzer. If I activate colored pencil pigment on trees by stroking with a brush, the foliage ends up looking too smooth. If I dab at it repeatedly with the brush tip, I get a lot of round blobs that look unnatural. Spritzing at arm’s length mists the pigment just enough to bring out the intense color irregularly, and that seems to look more like foliage to me.


  1. Great tip. Thanks. I've got the technique down pretty good digitally but I have been struggling with traditional techniques. getting the leaves to look natural is tough.

    I have an idea for ding a very light wash to get the base color then putting the leaves on top of that and your technique may be the answer to my problem.

    1. I'll look forward to seeing your experiments, Marshall!


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