Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Taking a Leaf of Inspiration

I’ve become a tree-hugger. Thanks to my sister Maria, who told me she is inspired by them, I have begun to study trees. Even though I had long admired them, before this spring I could not tell one from the other nor rattle off their names. But their leaves have inspired my art for several years.

My Leaf series started with picking up various leaves on my walks. At first, I used them in journal rubbings with colored pencils, reminding me of elementary school art--so easy, fun, and playful. Then, as I got more serious about art, I began pressing them into my daily paintings.

Yellow Diamondhead with Leaves

Remembered Leaves of Summer

My favorite leaves were those big, strong veined ones with a velvety underside. Were they maples? I didn’t know but I knew I’d have to use them in larger works.


Newgrange Leaf


Recently, I learned my favorites leaves come from Mexican Sycamore trees (see Untitled, Newgrange Leaf and Illumination above). They already had a special place in my heart but now my love has blossomed around the whole tree. Mexican Sycamores. Ahhh. Their barks are exquisite camouflage puzzle pieces I’ve collected from the ground and displayed unaltered, as 3-D sculpture. Their tree tops soar 80 feet into amazing blue skies, cloud-dusted skies, or rain-threatening skies. Their roots are lovely, loopy, gnarled abstractions that attract rock squirrels to tunnel nearby. Their leaves begin as tiny fingernail buds that can expand to extravagant 12 inches wide. Their leafless branches shine bone-white in the fall sunlight and reveal a red-shouldered hawk reeling over his nest.

I love these Mexican Sycamores, in all seasons, for all reasons. I love looking at them, photographing them, touching them, searching for their twigs and leaves. They deserve a nature journal unto themselves.

So, if you see me giving a Mexican Sycamore tree a hug or affectionate pat or wandering around its trunk for treasures, you’ll know why.


  1. Textures & brave colors. Love it!
    Have fun and success with your blog (and art of course).

  2. Beautifully said! Here you join your art and your writing into a seamless presentation of beauty observed and honored.

  3. Arco, thanks for your encouragement. Perhaps you are a tree-hugger, too?

    Thank you, Mary. I forgot how tough it is to express yourself through writing!

  4. Don't tell a soul, but I'm turning into a tree hugger too. I have a stunted tree in my garden (no idea what it is) that I call my meditation tree. It is highly huggable. I love maple leaves especially in Autumn. The Japanese maple leaves are so dainty and are great for printing paint onto paper...or wood.
    I can see why you love the Mexican Sycamore tree.

  5. Your secret is safe with me, Robyn. But, if you start using leaves in your totems, you will not be able to blame me :-)