It’s startling to me at times how I can get so caught up in what I’m doing and ignore the obvious.
Today I spent some time at Descanso Gardens with my husband, enjoying the beauty of a spring (Valentine’s) day, and I took my time doing a very detailed line drawing of a magnolia twig. As I peered at it intently, something “clicked” and I realized one of the purposes of botanical drawing. When you observe something very closely – and I mean down to the 1/16 of an inch closely, you start to understand what the plant does. You begin to sense which way the twig will bend even before it does. You know where the leaf will come out of an axil, and what side it will be on. You begin to think, perhaps a little bit, like a plant. OK, that’s too new age, scratch that. You know what I mean. You begin to understand the plant intimately, becoming lost in its anatomy, its function and its beauty.
So, as I was fixated on this small twig, working slowly and methodically, I lost sight of the larger plant patterns that shared the same white space: the bare winter bones of the magnolia overhead, the tumescent buds, the rhythm of line and shape, the lost and found edges, the positive and negative spaces. While I was trying to capture nature with my pencil, Nature was impishy doing her own dance with effortless grace, as though to taunt me. But perhaps to lead me on, to keep practicing and to keep looking. I bow to you, Madame Magnolia. You win. Sketches are made by fools like me, but only God can use light to paint a tree.