In my newest painting, which I'll show you soon, three cabbage palms frame one side of the scene. They are seen fairly close up, so needed to be painted quite accurately. Painting a realistic cabbage palm tree proved more complicated than expected. After all, I thought, there were some decently rendered distant palms in some of my paintings, and I had good results with a tropical beach scene that had the island sort of palms near the viewer. Painting them close up was a whole new challenge, humbling, but very interesting.
Cabbage palms (technically the Sabal palmetto, Florida's state tree) are actually quite complex. The fronds in the canopy grow out on various levels as the tree grows taller. In nature, the lower fronds gradually brown, droop, and eventually drop off, sometimes cleanly and sometimes leaving spiky pieces of stem behind (as on the loosely trimmed palms in the photo above). At the national historic site scene I was working on, the browned lower fronds had been regularly trimmed away from the palms, leaving a mostly bright green "lollipop" shaped top. For visual interest, I had decided to add a few browned fronds hanging down, but did incorporate the fairly smooth trunk with no spikes sticking out, just as I saw it at the historic Kingsley Plantation. The plantation is one of our favorite places to visit or to bring out-of-town guests; if you wish, you can view previous Kingsley Plantation posts here.
As I worked to learn more about the cabbage palm, my mentor, Linda Blondheim, advised me and provided one of her own printed tutorials with detailed pointers on painting various species of palm trees. The tutorials may be available from Linda--here is a way to contact her. I also viewed dozens of palms on a perfectly timed weekend watching the dogs at our kids' beach town home while they were away. The yard of their home has gorgeous stands of palm trees, Then, just the shortest walk in their area provided many more palms to study and photograph--each with its own unique form and character. That weekend, I sketched a few palms and parts of palms to get a good feel for them and took dozens of photos, some showing a whole tree or stand of trees, others mid-range, and some intense close-ups for information about details. Back in the studio, the painting flowed much more successfully--will post the results soon.
By the way, please bear with me for a couple of months with less frequent posts. Mark is recovering well from recent rotator cuff repair surgery, and I go in next week for total right hip replacement. I plan to prepare a few posts the rest of this week (if all goes well) that can post automatically, but probably two posts a month will be my max for awhile.
Question of the day: Do you also find that one of the joys (and sometimes, frustrations) of creative pursuits is that each new project presents new challenges and opportunities to grow?