The Curse of the Joshua Tree

Although that blog post title sounds a bit like the title of a mystery novel, the tale of horror in this post is no work of fiction.

As you may recall, part of my frantic oh-my-god-I-have-too-much-to-do feelings recently had to do with my need to write and illustrate an article about Joshua trees for the Native Plant Society of North America. The article itself rolled off my fingers with the only hitch being that the plant turned out to be so interesting I went way over my word count limit and had to do some writerly magic to squeeze everything in.

The problem came when I got to the portion of my to-do list that said “Draw Joshua Tree.” Since these desert dwellers are nowhere near my soggy hometown of Portland, the first challenge was to find a picture to work from. Luckily, I had some forethought on this and one of the last times Mr. Husband was down in the high desert of Southern California, I had him take some photos of Joshua trees. This one seemed like a good candidate…

Joshua tree, yucca brevifolia, southern california, desert

Now, I’ve always felt I could draw almost anything. It’s just a matter of breaking the image down into manageable chunks and drawing what I see. Well, look at this thing! Sure, I might be able to manage the trunk, but what was I to do with all those clusters of spiky leaves without the tree ending up looking like a Simpson’s character?

I started to panic and was about to send the editor an email when the proverbial light bulb came on over my head. I remembered that on the version of Microsoft Word on my old laptop (a PC) you could alter photos by stripping out color, creating different “artistic” effects, and the like (I know there is better software out there that can do this, but it’s something I don’t have much use for so please bear with my old school ways).

I uploaded the photo, threw on the black and white switch, then dug around in the effects settings and found one for line drawing (or something like that). I clicked on it, made a few more adjustments to the lighting and voila, the digital gods and blessed me with something I could work from!

To be honest, I was about to just send the editor this picture.

Okay, don’t judge me, but I had very little time to work on this. To make the work go faster, I pulled out a piece of my DuraLar film, placed it over the print out and set to drawing…or tracing. This sounds a bit like cheating, but it did involve some work. I could only get the basic shapes I needed, then had to use my own artistic brain to work in some details and shading to give it that botanical illustration look.

The result was….okay. Throughout this whole process I was cursing myself for volunteering to do this, I was cursing Joshua trees for being so complex, I was cursing the editor for giving me this damn species for my first illustration assignment. Why couldn’t she have given me a simple fern or a little flower. No, I get a freaking Joshua tree!

The not-so-great illustration.

I honestly didn’t know what to do. The drawing was done, but I wasn’t proud of it. It just seemed a bit lackluster and not like a crisp botanical illustration. I figured I’d send it and see what the editor had to say.

Since I needed to scan the drawing to have an image to send to her, I slapped it on the scanner. In the first scan I did, the image barely showed up. Uh-oh. I played around with the scanner settings and the digital gods smiled upon me again…the drawing ended up looking very much like I hoped it would! Better yet, when I sent it to the editor, she was quite happy with it. Thank you, digital gods!!

All hail the digital gods!!! I must go sacrifice my iPod shuffle to them to keep them happy.

In other news, I’m taking this week off from creating any new  artwork to do the prep work for my show (although I do have plenty of new work to show you). Next Monday I’m scheduled to go to the gallery and hang all the work, which means I better get everything into frames…of course, when the store employees put the price stickers on the glass of the frames (see below), this adds an extra chore to the whole process. Sigh.

If the digital gods have ever saved you, I’d love to hear about it. I’ll be back next week with some new work and maybe some behind-the-scenes photos of the show set up. Have a great week everyone.

You idiots!!

ART OPEN HOUSE

Saturday, 15 April 2017  * * * Noon to 3:00 pm

Please stop by to say hello, grab a snack, and view several pieces of my colored pencil and acrylic artwork!! The gallery is at…

Clackamas Community College, Wilsonville Campus, 29353 SW Town Center Loop EastWilsonville, Oregon 97070

Can’t make it? Don’t worry, the art will be on display from 3 April until 16 June 2017

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9 thoughts on “The Curse of the Joshua Tree

  1. Jackie says:

    So happy that your computer wizardry created a decent picture. That would be tricky to draw without looking like a bunch of sycamore burrs stuck together! I never realized what a weird looking plant it was.
    Good Luck with the show! If I lived closer than Ohio, I’d come see it. As for frames, you might want to check out American Frame Corp. They have all kinds of selections, plus mats/glass/plexiglass, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • painterwrite says:

      Hmmm…maybe I should have just glued some sycamore burrs onto a branch and used that as a model. 🤔🤔🤔 As far as frames, I just can’t bring myself to buy them online since I like to give them a hands on once over. I managed to find some excellent bargains at Ross….although after you buy 20 of these things, it doesn’t feel like such a bargain. And thanks for the good wishes, I may stick up cardboard cutouts of all the people who wish they could attend so it seems like I have a good turn out. 😜😜😜

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  2. crawcraftsbeasties says:

    Oh wow, the digital gods really came through for you on this one! Mr Joshua Tree is certainly a prickly character, but I think you captured his best side in the end 😉 Good luck with your hanging today! (Hmmm, that actually looks a little ominous now that I see it written down…)

    Liked by 1 person

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