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This willow goes by many names: Pacific willow in my field guide, but also red, whiplash, and shining willow (the translation of the scientific name). What I’ve drawn here is not a leaf, strictly speaking, but a stipule: a little quasi-leaf that grows at the junction of a twig and the stem of a leaf. And the ones on S. lucida are fuzzy and shiny, which is more than I care to try to get across in my drawing tonight. It’s been a pleasant, but long and full, day, and one steeped in art. Earlier, I drew a copy of a self-portrait from one of Cezanne’s sketchbooks, and a clandestine portrait of an old man on the bus.


Drawing six leaves takes six times as long, but sometimes I just can’t resist the shape of a whole twig of them falling like this. And I’m on vacation.

Tomorrow we go to the Art Institute of Chicago, the home of so many works of art that I have seen only in tiny little reproductions in books. Hopper, Cassatt, Seurat, Monet. So much inspiration in one building!

This is a weeping willow leaf, and its scientific name is Salix babylonica. That has to be a reference to the beginning of Psalm 137, right?: “By the waters of Babylon, we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.”

The willow may weep, but it’s hard to be sad when you’re looking at one, or sitting under it. It’s such a lovely, sheltering tree.

Having gone into such delicate detail with the previous drawing, I tried to do the opposite with the interesting light on this leaf. How quick and rough can the marks be and still get the shadow across? I’m not so good at quick and rough, and immediately started refining. An old story, and not only in visual art.

With Salix exigua, we enter the category of toothed simple leaves!

–I spent a lot of time with this drawing yesterday! We had a terrific four-hour campus vision workshop at UUCPA, and I drew during a lot of it. With all that time, I sank into delicious detail. Will I go back to it and do more? Maybe, maybe not.

One thing is clear: these leaves, which seemed rather bland when I first looked at photos–they were flat, literally–sure seem a world away from flat and bland now.

This is yesterday’s. A lovely habit has developed in which I draw at night, in my room, while my daughter reads to me. By the time the drawing is done and she’s too tired to read any more, I don’t want to disturb the peaceful feeling by getting my phone and taking the picture. So they’ll lag behind.

If I’d known how to identify this tree, I probably would have done so many times during our recent trip to southwestern Utah. It is found there and around the Grand Canyon, as well as central California. My daughter expressed a hope that I would become a mom who can identify lots of trees when we’re out and about. I’m gonna need the field guide…

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