Monday, September 20, 2010

Sycamore leaves

Sycamore leaves, originally uploaded by Elizabeth Smith.

Although sycamores naturally range into north Florida, landscapers have been planting them in our area of Southwest Florida. I enjoy finding their huge leaves on the ground – they make interesting subjects to draw as they dry and twist and wrinkle into challenging shapes.

Sycamore trees are one of our largest species in North America – up to 100 feet or more – and can develop massive trunks. Besides the distinctive huge leaves (these are 11 inches across!), sycamore trees also produce a flaky bark of gray, brown, and cream colors.

The scientific name Platanus occidentalis refers to the wide, large leaves (Plantanus from the Greek for broad, and location (occidentalis meaning “western,” as in the western hemisphere).

The common name meaning of sycamore is a bit more of a mystery. Online sources give two or three versions, but seems to have the most concise: a compound word evolving via Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and French translations meaning fig-mulberry.

I’ve painted sycamore leaves in the past, but this time I wanted to explore those amazing shapes with pencil. I used my PentalicNature Sketch pad, and was happy with the way the tooth grabbed the pencil, and allowed for both soft blending of pencil strokes as welll as distinctive lines.

I used an ordinary mechanical pencil for this (.7 mm, probably an HB), and I had to be careful of smearing. If I want to preserve my work, I’ll have to spray it with fixative.


If you’d like to read more about sycamore trees, I found both of these online articles interesting:

 If you’d like to see my sketchbook paintings of sycamore leaves, please visit my Flickr site and start here. These are a series of leaf studies using different primary triads of Daniel Smith watercolors. The differences are subtle, but I learned a lot!

To see the top image larger, just click on it to visit my Flickr photostream.