Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chestnuts NOT roasting on an open fire...

While I was up in Davis in October, buying the aforementioned local walnuts, I also scooped up some of these little gems...chestnuts. The woman at the produce stand, perhaps curious as to why I bought only a handful, asked me what I was going to do with them. "Well, actually", I ventured, "I'm going to draw them." Not the answer she was expecting, I'll bet, but their appearance is irresistible to someone like me. Those round, dark hulls coming to a point at furry tufts remind me of little hedgehogs. (And the fact that they grow in spiky outer coverings just adds to their hedgehoginess.)

As expected, I found them really interesting to draw. I ended up layering many colors of colored pencil to try to replicate the beautiful polished-wood hulls. The drawing was initially done without the shadows, mainly because I was afraid of ruining the whole piece. Shadows can be very tricky to draw, and if they're not rendered accurately, the viewer's eye knows it, and is distracted by the shadows instead of focusing on the object. To further complicate things, shadows contain many colors, depending upon the color of the light source, and including reflected light from the object itself. Intimidating. After staring at my finished chestnuts for a day or two, I took the plunge. While not perfect, I'm satisfied that the shadows add to the drawing. Hooray for risk-taking!

And hooray for the humble chestnut. American chestnuts were pretty much obliterated by the accidental introduction of blight in the early part if the 20th century, but there has been a movement to re-establish chestnut trees in the United States. While researching chestnuts online, I found two sources practically in my own backyard. The first is a book by San Francisco author Susan Freinkel that looks fascinating, American Chestnut: the Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree. I also learned that there's a chestnut orchard not far from where I live, and I'm already looking forward to visiting it next fall!


  1. Beautiful drawings! Victoria Thorne introduced you to us all so welcome to the blogosphere! Like you I appreciate drawings and have a small collection of them. Again, welcome.

  2. Thank you for making me feel official with my first comment; I'm enjoying delving into your wonderful blog this evening. And thank you, VT, for the gracious introduction. I'll sign off now, before I start sounding like Sally Field on Oscar night.

  3. Hello Sarah. I just came across your blog through the illustration friday page, and I'm so glad I did. I adore your drawings!! Your attention to detail is great, but I love that you are not too attentive, you give a beautiful atmosphere to everyday things. I really like that. I am also enjoying your use of brown paper....I think I am learning a lot just from looking at your work. Thanks so much for sharing with us all.