When I decided to draw a leaf every day, I had a particular kind of leaf in mind. A particular class of leaf, anyway: broad leaves. Some would be compound, sure, but I’d basically be drawing A leaf or A FEW leaves. Then I opened up the field guide and it began with needle-leaved trees. Drat. Not what I had envisioned myself doing. I mean, how interesting is just one pine needle? So I was suddenly having to draw whole clusters of needles, with their hopelessly complex and irregular negative space. This seemed harder, somehow, than what I had planned on. More than I’d bargained for.

Well, some days I have drawn just one needle up close, or a few, like today, and wait ’til you see what I’m going to do tomorrow, but more often, with needles, it’s going to be a whole twigful, or more. And I know this is a good lesson, and I am glad that it is where the book started, and not just because, as I comforted myself at first, it meant I’d get the hardest ones out of the way by spring. The lesson is one I learn over and over when drawing: that what looks easy at first turns out to be surprisingly difficult, or if not more difficult than I’d imagined, definitely different. Once I look closely, the project isn’t at all what I’d planned. I’m sure broad leaves will also have surprises for me. In fact, I’ll be astonished if they don’t surprise me every day.

There’s always more there than I expect to see, and the more I draw, the more I notice to draw. It’s never easy. It’s always an adventure.