Before I left for vacation, I read an article about the skill required to accurately paint (not draw) the leaves of an olive tree. The difficulty was the change in the hue of each leaf as the day progressed into night. I didn’t think about the article again until I went to the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina and stood in front of the watercolors of one of my favorite artists, Gabriel Carelli.
Gabriel Carelli was an Italian artist who lived from 1831 to 1900. He was a travel artist who was popular with those who wanted to display exotic locations in their homes. Such displays were trendy in the 19th century. Family, friends and visitors could admire a Gabriel Carelli owner’s worldly, good taste. Besides, Mr. Carelli was talented. His watercolors of Russia, Wales, southern Europe and north Africa are beautiful.
As I moved slowly from painting to painting, admiring his mastery of water, sky, man-made structures, rocks, palms, and other plants, I noticed something odd. He couldn’t paint olive trees and leaves very well, in fact, when he did paint an olive tree he would opt for the old standby “the bushy foliage” technique. This technique opts for shape as a guide to subject. You don’t need to look too hard to know what the shape is depicting. It’s an easy out. It sort of reminds me of (emphasis on ‘sort of’) when Mr. Olive Crazy said, after watching Ocean’s Thirteen, “Ellen Barkin is pretty hot if you squint a little bit.”
Here is a video, using “the bushy foliage” technique to draw an olive tree. It makes me cringe, so of course you must watch it and cringe along with me, or use it to spark your future career as a great artist.
How to Draw Olive Trees —powered by eHow.com
Here are two modern artists, Marthe (one name like Cher) and Guido Borelli, who have painted some realistic looking olive leaves. The trunk of Borelli’s olive tree is off but the leaves are both abstract and realistic at the same time.
May the sun shine through your branches.