Apple trees were an important part of my childhood. My aunt and uncle, who lived in the house next door, had a small orchard of two cherry trees that I loved to climb and three big apple trees. Their branches were too tangled and dense to climb easily, but in the summer I found praying mantises, moths, caterpillars, and walking sticks on them, and I loved to play in their shade. A circular, limestone gravel driveway looped through the orchard, and one of my nuttier childhood activities included the collection of limestone dust, which I would mix with puddle water and mud to create "cement," and I would use this substance to create little stone houses for my bug friends. When I wanted a snack, a steady supply of red or yellow delicious apples was always at my fingertips. And Mom reports that when she was pregnant with me, she used to gorge on those apples, too.
So I was overjoyed three years ago when Jeff informed me that his (soon to be our) yard contained over a dozen apple trees. When they're in bloom, they remind me of Akira Kurosawa's peach orchard at 1:50 here, except their blossoms are pink and white, and nobody chops the trees down.
I took several hundred photos of the trees on a sunny weekend last month, including the one below, which was just one of my "average-to-above-average" shots. So this probably will not be my last apple blossom painting!
For years I have been a peony loyalist, but these apple blossoms on those peak days, when some were opening, some were closed, and some were in full bloom, stole my heart this spring. I mean, I found myself talking to them as I photographed them, gasping and telling them how beautiful they were as they bobbed around in the breeze. It was...well, this kind of thing is par for the course for me. I could not wait to paint them.
This 16"x20" watercolor took seven days to paint, and what you see above is the painting on day five. The cluster on the right was mostly completed by then, but the rest of it was still loose. I spent the next two days refining edges and adding drybrush textures over these wet-into-wet surfaces, so everything in the finished painting below has been painted twice and sometimes three or four times.
I think my favorite part of the painting is the big leaf in the lower half. Apple leaves, especially very young ones, tend to have a wrinkly texture, and the undersides are slightly more yellow than the tops. Branching off from the big veins are tiny, squiggly ones that are hard to mimic with watercolor.
I purposely blurred the leaves and blooms that were in the distance to keep the focus on shapes in the foreground. Some of the blurring was achieved the normal way, i.e. applying paint to a wet surface and letting it spread out and do its thing. More intricate areas such as the lower-right corner required me to paint everthing with sharp edges first, which I later blurred with a wrecked, fuzzed-out little brush that I use for only this purpose.
Above is the view from my messy (sorry) little studio. As you can see, my beloved northern light has become almost completely blocked by, yes, apple trees, who seem to be demanding that I paint more of them. So I'm calling this painting Apple Blossoms 1, in anticipation of 2, 3, and maybe even 4.