Friday, November 4, 2022



11/1/22 Green Lake neighborhood

Although I see it regularly, I hadnt sketched this sourwood tree since 2017. It was first brought to my attention back then by Katie, a fellow yogini, who knew I enjoyed sketching trees in the fall. In addition to foliage that turns red-orange, it has long, yellow-green clusters of seed strands, giving it an intriguing and complex color mix.

To complicate things further, the whole right side of the tree wasn’t just in shade – its foliage was darker. The color on that side was so different that I started wondering if I was seeing part of a second tree, and although another sourwood is just behind it, the darker branches are definitely growing from the same tree. Just as I was thinking about all of that, Katie happened to drive by and saw me sketching, so we both walked up to the tree to examine it more closely. The branches on the right are almost entirely blocked from the sun by the larger branches facing south (on the street side). The blocked side has fewer seed strands, too. That probably explains the difference in color and stage of turning.

After sketching it on Tuesday, I looked back at my previous sketch (which I had made at almost exactly the same time of year five years ago) and was surprised to see how much its shape and color had changed. It had probably been pruned at some point to accommodate the wires. I even looked back at the photos I took in 2017 (then and now both shown below). Although I don’t study and document trees the way a naturalist or nature journaler would, I do appreciate that I observe these types of changes in trees only because I have sketched them in the past.

Color study

Color notes: The day before I had made the sketch above, I had passed the tree on my fitness walk and considered sketching it then, but it was cold and blustery, and I didn’t have my larger sketchbook with me. Instead, I decided to make a small, quick study (at left) to sort out the complex hues I was seeing. I tried a mix with the dark, cool green in my palette for the right side, but the colors were so different that it looked like it wasn’t part of the same tree. I also used both the warm and the cool orange.

For the larger sketch above, I used only three pencils: a pale, warm green, a cool red-orange and a dark reddish-purple. In some sketches I pull out all the stops and use everything in my secondary triad palette, but I think the look is more cohesive when I choose just one green, one orange and one violet.




  1. That is one massive tree! I love the colors and it is so odd that the two sides look so different in color.

    1. Yes, I had to step further back to sketch it because it has grown so much!


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