Coffee at The Alcove

What a wonderful day … we started off in the LA Flower Mart at 7 am for a tour with a Descanso Gardens floral arrangement expert (more on that later) … then brunch at Operetta, a French cafe at the Flower Mart … then over to Barnsdall Park to see a show of fine art by Otis art college graduates (a show which ends tomorrow) … then a brief stop at an art supply store which my dear husband called to my attention, ending up at a charming coffee house called The Alcove on Hillhurst, near the Greek Theater, where we sipped cappucinos and I drew this courtyard tree. I drew a few people also but those will have to wait for another scanning session. Because I hadn’t intended to paint today, I took a simple sketchbook with eh paper for note taking and pencil drawing, so the color here had to be added digitally after the drawing was scanned. A 4B pencil was used for the sketching part.

I wish I knew the name of this tree, I’ll have to look it up in the Sunset garden book. Rough striated bark, grayish brown trunk and limbs, very “ordinary” looking leaves, oval, pointed, smooth edges. You see them all over So. Cal. It appears to be a deciduous tree as the leaves look new, bright green and on the small side. This is going to bug me until I figure it out, y’know?

Edited to add

The raw scan out of the sketchbook

I’ve created a grad from green to brown, pulled back the opacity to 50%, and set the grad to multiply

I made a composite of the previous layers and put it on a fresh layer. Then I added new layers and painted some foliage where it made sense. There are three layers of leaves, in varying opacity and color, to suggest volume and depth. I also painted a little color on the trunk.

The tree was a 15-20 min. sketch, the time it took for my husband to stand in line to get coffees while I claimed a table in the crowded courtyard. Photoshopping took about another 10 minutes.

I made the conscious decision not to fit all the tree on the page but to concentrate on the parts that interested me the most, the sinuous trunk and limbs and the textured bark.

I hope you found these additional “work in progress stages” parts interesting


  1. Lin
    April 1, 2006

    What a lovely day and gorgeous sketch!!!

  2. endment
    April 1, 2006

    The tree is beautiful… Your description of your day sounds delightful.

  3. Robyn
    April 1, 2006

    I am inspired ever time I look at your work, Karen. Thank you!

  4. Wendee
    April 2, 2006

    Karen –
    This is lovely! The background is added in, too? I was thinking I ought to get a notebook with neutral brown paper for some sketching after seeing this… Hmmmm..

  5. Ulla
    April 2, 2006

    Love it, and what a delightful day… I wonder if it is a nut tree? Walnut?

  6. Laura
    April 2, 2006

    Ha! I want this tree! You better keep an eye on it, Karen, or it’s going to be snatched for my trees sketchbook! ;D Really nice

  7. Felicity
    April 2, 2006

    This is beautiful. I love the softness of the colours, it gives it a misty quality.

  8. Starr
    April 3, 2006

    Wonderful sketch, Karen. Reminds me of so many trees I’ve seen and wanted to capture. You did it!

  9. MaryC
    April 3, 2006

    I am so grateful that you share your talent. I love to see the creative process, since I’m not an artist and have to express my creativity in other ways. This is wonderful. Thanks again for sharing.

  10. Felicity
    April 3, 2006

    Thanks for the update, this is so interesting!

  11. Tom
    April 22, 2006

    What a beautiful drawing! You are very talented. The tree you drew is called a Camphor.

  12. Cafe
    September 21, 2006

    I really like the added green color in the final. It adds a
    nice touch to the sketch.

  1. My Right Brain » Blog Archive » “Coffee at the Alcove” by Karen Winters - [...] Here’s a brief tutorial from Karen Winters ( She sketched the tree in pencil (while her hubby queue for…

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