Friday, May 12, 2023

Pink Dogwood


5/7/23 Maple Leaf neighborhood

“Do you walk around the neighborhood and draw things you see?”

The question had come from a girl sitting in a tree behind me as I sketched the pink dogwood across the street. Answering that that was exactly what I do, I flipped to another page in my sketchbook to show her the Eastern redbud I had sketched the previous day and pointed to it down the street. Her expression showed the same amazed wonderment I’ve seen on the faces of adults encountering an urban sketcher for the first time. Showing great curiosity, she asked a lot of questions and even asked permission to take a photo of my sketch. (Aside: Am I so behind the times that I’m still surprised when preteens pull iPhones out of their pockets?)

 After complimenting me, she said, “I wish I could draw like that.”

“I bet you can.”

“I bet I can’t.”

Almost all young kids draw without any doubt that they can, until one day, they decide they can’t and stop. It made me sad that, at the age of 11 or 12, she had already decided that her skills were lacking.

I empathized. I was probably around her age when I, too, saw that my drawing skills were sorely lacking compared to some “talented” classmates. At the same time, teachers and other adults were noticing and encouraging my writing skills, which made it easier to stop drawing and focus on writing (which I also enjoyed). I appreciate that my writing was encouraged – after all, it led to my lifelong career as well as hobby (this blog) – but if drawing had also been encouraged, perhaps I wouldn’t have stopped. That’s why I think it’s so important to encourage whatever creative activity young people want to pursue, even if it’s not their “best” thing or what they show “talent” in, because it’s not for us to decide which is their “best” thing.

Anyway, I very much enjoyed my chat with the girl sitting in the tree and was delighted by her interest. Maybe her amazement that grownups spend their time this way will someday change to walking around the neighborhood with a sketchbook herself.

Color notes:
When I first started seeing all the dogwoods suddenly beginning to open, I realized that the Caran d’Ache Supracolor Pink (081) that I had used for sakura and the Derwent Inktense Fuchsia (700) that I had used for Kwanzan cherries are both too cool for dogwoods. I pulled out my color journal to audition some warmer pinks. 

My options are disappointingly few among my favorite watercolor pencils. The only pinkish color in the Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle palette is Anthraquinoid Pink (571), which is not pink at all but coral. Supracolor includes a couple of warm pinks (582 and 270), but Inktense’s Pink Flamingo (405) has a stronger wash. When mixed with Supracolor Pink, it seemed just right for dogwoods. (Huh – saved by Inktense again. I sense a disturbance in the Force.)

Blossoms on dogwoods seem to open unevenly around the tree. This is the tree I sketched above, but the photo was taken from a different angle, looking more symmetrical.


  1. I can see your use for the variety of colors you have. I definitely don't have the right colors in my pencils. I love the story about the teen you met. It is sad that she already thinks she doesn't have artistic "talent."

    1. I know, but you're a painter, so you can mix all the colors you want! ;-)


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