You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘a leaf a day’ category.

After spending so much time with willows and learning how many kinds there are, I now realize that I see them around me all the time. Walking in and around the Point Reyes National Seashore, for example, as I’ve been doing for the past few days. Willows, willows, everywhere, and I never recognized them before because I didn’t realize they are so often large shrubs, with silhouettes that don’t resemble those of weeping willows at all. If I hazarded a guess about what these shrubs were at all, I would have said something related to olives (going purely by a glance at the leaves), but olives and willows aren’t even in the same order.

I can’t identify which willow species grow here around Point Reyes, but I’m pretty sure there are some trees of genus Salix, anyway. Maybe tomorrow I will remember to snap a few photos and check them in a field guide or iNaturalist.


I had a drawing teacher at the Educational Center for the Arts, Avner Moriah, who said that when you really, really wanted to get what you saw onto the paper, you would work so hard you would cry. I looked at the light on this leaf and thought, I would work on that until I cried if it would mean success. I didn’t quite cry, and I’m not sure I quite got it where I wanted it, but I may try again, because I love it so much.

Here’s the reference photo, from the blog Trees of Santa Cruz County by Peter Shaw.

And my drawing:

Another mystery born of jotting down just a common name from my 1982 field guide. When I searched on the name “northwest willow,” I got Salix exigua, which I already drew a couple of weeks ago (common names: sandbar willow, narrowleaf willow, or coyote willow–not northwest willow, according to Wikipedia, but there you are). Hm. My friend Aleks dug up Salis sessifolia, also known as northwest willow, so I happily drew that. I’ll find out when I get home whether it’s what the field guide had in mind.

In the world of fauna, sessile means stationary: a mature barnacle, for example, is in its sessile phase. (Did you know that young barnacles swim freely? True.) In flora, a sessile leaf is one that attaches directly to the twig, without a stalk. So this is a sessile-leaf willow.

The problem with using a field guide from 1982 is that sometimes, species names have changed. Since I’m away from home for several days, I scribbled the common names of the trees I’ll be drawing this week in my journal so I wouldn’t have to bring the field guide along. Then I looked up today’s tree, Torrey vauquelinia, and I couldn’t find any such thing online. There are a lot of trees named after John Torrey, but most, if not all, are conifers. If I had the field guide with me, I could check the scientific name, or look up other common names and the description, and probably find the corresponding tree online.

Since I don’t have the book, I mentioned my problem on Facebook, and two friends who love doing research dove right in. Aleks’s best guess is this: Vauquelinia californica, common name Arizona rosewood. Why is Arizona in the common name and California in the scientific name? What happened to the John Torrey connection? Is this the tree that appears next in my field guide? Some of these questions may be answered soon. In the meantime, it is a leaf, and I drew it, and that’s the most important thing.

An experiment in simplicity. I used only three tones: one dark, one light, and the unmarked paper. I think it’s very expressive, in spite of or because of this limitation.

I took a break from this one (MacKenzie willow) about 2/3 of the way through, then liked it so much when I opened my sketchbook again that I didn’t add another mark. Nor did I look back at the reference photo to see what I was leaving out by stopping. I like the spirit of it, and isn’t that the aim?

And here is yesterday’s leaf, from a peach tree.

Criss-crossed by shadows, this bonplandiana leaf, of all the ones I saw online, said “draw me.”

Enter your e-mail address to receive e-mail notifications of new posts on Sermons in Stones

Follow me on Twitter

Links I like

%d bloggers like this: