While I was on vacation last week in San Luis Obispo, I did a bunch of sketches at Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve (see my Creek Freak blog about it here.) I was thinking I would go there for a day or two, and ended up there four days out of a six day vacation. It’s a great peaceful place with hundreds, probably thousands, of magnificent ancient oak trees.
In 2004, I was there while bicycling from S.F. to L.A. and did this ink drawing in my sketchbook No. 49:
So I had been meaning to go back and explore and sketch more. When I got there, I started working on this drawing, in my current sketchbook, number 61:
Even though I took this photo as a sort of insurance in case I somehow didn’t make it back to this spot, I didn’t draw from the photo at all (and I generally don’t like to work from photos.) I think that this is actually the observation drawing that I’ve spent the most time on, since I can remember. I did this over the course of four afternoons. The light changes quite a bit, so I ended up moving on when the setting sun got in my eyes.
Near the end of that first day I did this quick postcard-size watercolor:
I came back a second day, earlier and started working on the watercolor at the top of the post. I ended up working on it for three days, and though I like it a lot, I think it’s somewhat unfinished. Also, the scan sort of dropped out a lot of the light blue sky, which I think adds a lot to the image.
At the end of that second day, I did this second postcard-size watercolor:
Then I got smart and hit on the idea that I should try using a brush pen and work big… so I did this drawing in an over-sized 11″x14″ sketchbook. It’s from another angle, but it’s the same fallen over tree that I painted on the first day.
Then, as the light was fading, I did another view of the same tree, looking upward into the branches, again brush pen in over-sized sketchbook:
The next day I returned. I took a break from the top watercolor, and thought, well, if the brush pen stuff works so well, let me try adding color to it… but I don’t think that this one looks quite as good:
I think the brush pen was best for the big broad gnarled sweep of the trunk… and not so much for the forest and the leaves. The above picture is a really old, now-dead oak in a sort of clearing in the middle of a grove. It sends up three limbs upward into the canopy. It’s one of my favorite spots in the entire site.
I kept working on the sketchbook 61 drawing and the watercolor at the top of the post. Then at the end of the day, I decided to try something else and did this closer-up portrait of just one branch, on a panorama postcard sized piece of watercolor paper:
There’s so much going on in even just a small area there. This branch had:
- at least two types of lichen: green (above the elbow on the left) and pinkish-gray (at least four patches from middle to right.)
- some green-
parasitelace lichen stuff (in the broken-off limb upward on the right)
- new leafy growth
Thank you dear reader who has made it this far. None of my drawings or photos quite does justice to this magical ancient place. The light there is so complex… the trees so beautiful. Go visit and see for yourself.
Lastly an apology on the actual name of the place… which I was all over the board on. It’s the Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve… sorry I called it “preserve” instead of “reserve” in so many titles of these pieces.