Today’s drawing is one of the worst I’ve done in these first ten days of Inktober. Even so, I’m proud of it.
The prompt words I followed — jump, gigantic, flowing, pattern, tree — led me to the Royal Empress, Paulownia tomentosa, also known as princess tree, empress tree, or foxglove tree. It’s a deciduous, leaf-shedding tree that is native to central and western China. It is also an extremely fast-growing tree, and is considered an exotic, invasive tree in North America. Although they’re beautiful, they are apparently nuisances to have around, and most of what I found online was information on how to control or get rid of them. Sadly, you’ll actually find this tree on the “Most-Hated Plants” list compiled by EcoSystem Gardener:
“Known as the Princess Tree, Empress Tree, and Royal Empress Tree, Paulownia Trees are highly invasive and are destroying native ecosystems from Maine to Florida and Texas, as well as the Pacific Northwest. However, open almost any gardening magazine and you’ll find ads touting this tree as an “amazing, fast-growing, shade tree.”It is this fast-growing nature that is causing so many problems for native ecosystems. Growing up to 15 feet in a single year, this invasive tree shades out and outcompetes native plant communities for resources such as water and nutrients.”
Since I’m now learning a lot about Asian culture, I was fascinated by this tree. It is treated more kindly in Japan, where it is planted at the birth of a daughter. As the daughter matures, so does the tree, and when she becomes eligible for marriage, the tree is cut down and carved into wooden articles for her dowry.
Carving paulownia wood is considered to be an art form in Japan. Legend says that the phoenix will land only in this tree — and only if a good ruler is in power.
Several Asian string instruments are made from the wood of this tree, including the Japanese koto.
When I browsed for reference photos, I came across one that showed the lovely blossoms. I chose that photo not only because it was beautiful, but because it offered an opportunity for me to work with shading — a definite weakness in my ink drawings. In choosing this blossom photo, I didn’t think the flowers would be too difficult to draw.
I was wrong. Although the flowers reminded me a lot of some of the earliest drawing illustrations I copied — from Drawing Lessons for Beginning Artists by Kate Berry — these proved to be more complicated. I’d definitely bitten off far more than I could artistically chew, and I very nearly gave up. I could find another photo reference; I could find something much easier to draw.
But I decided to stick with it. I’d chosen that particular reference photo, and difficult or not, I was going to complete my drawing. It’s all right to make a bad drawing, I reminded myself. The important thing was to finish it, to not give in and give up at the first sign of discouragement or doubt.
In the end, I was pleased. Although it’s not one of my favorite drawings, it’s not as awful as I thought it would be. Most of all, it served as an exercise in the art of persistence, a reminder that giving up isn’t a solution, and that perseverance does pay off.
COMING UP TOMORROW?
Here’s the search Cheeky Monkey Mind and I used:
What did we find? Check back tomorrow!