By Joseph Weinzettle
Saw Palmetto is a species of shrub that has existed in Florida since the Oligocene Epoch (33.9 to 23 mya). It is a foundation plant species in the environment which provides food and shelter to a wide array of wildlife.
Despite its significance to the environment and almost ubiquitous presence in the natural landscape, I’ve rarely made it a subject of my work. Drawing a saw palmetto is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. This common shrub presents an wide array of angles as its branches rotate out from its trunks in different directions, often
overlapping with branches from its other trunks. Its multiple trunks snake in different directions, some along the ground and some vertically.
With bamboo and brush en plein air, I started my 4th saw palmetto composition in a pinewoods (below):
I started with silverpoint for the initial compositional design. Then worked in light washes, background and foreground. Now, I’m working with dark washes to match the tones in the foreground (below):
The more I look at saw palmetto, the more tones, shapes appear, that seem to be essential in resolving this composition. This slow growing, but enduring ancient species seemingly has its own pace, inviting the viewer, observer and interpreter to see it on its own terms.