From Palm to Canvass

How Palm Fronds Grow and Shed

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In The Tree

There are many different types of palms. Some shed fronds from the entire trunk. Some do so only from the top leaves. 
In this one, the green leaf grows out of the thick wooden base that I end up using for my living canvass. The green section, which is quite long, falls off as the leaf dries. The heavier, more durable base falls to the ground as new fronds form under it. Strong winds and storms hurry the natural shedding process along.

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The Fallen Frond

This is what a full, still attached to the leafy section, frond looks like on the ground. It is a rare sight because the leafy section generally falls off or cracks during the fall or even while still on the tree. The side facing us is the backside of the frond, which is the side that grows agains the tree trunk. The front side is what I paint, after cleaning and preparing it.

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Ready to Bring Home

Most of the fronds I bring home look like this. They are already weathered and have lost the long leafy tail. They range in size from about two hands tall to over 4ft, depending on the palm and on my luck. Most are about 2ft tall and 1ft wide at the widest part. Natural cracks and "imperfections" in the wood are what make it such a fun and evocative medium to use. 

 

From Frond to Art

Working With a Natural Canvas

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This Frond is About to Take Flight

Time to discover the natural personality already there. For example, the sides of this frond reminded me of feathers. After steam cleaning and prepping the surface, it is ready to take flight. I start by sketching lightly with a pencil where the general face of the bird will go.

Work in Progress

Once the sketch is complete, I mark in more details with a sharpie. Now it's time to add  rough paint strokes and experiment with the pallet. There is plenty of room to play with the color-variation that is already within the bark. Looking up images of the bird in nature helps me feel out the right colors and moods.

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The Eagle Has Landed

The layers of paint are absorbed by the frond differently depending on the spot placed. The process takes about two days because I like to let the paint dry between working, to maximize on the effect. This helps create dimension and depth, mimicking fur or feathers.