Saturday, July 14, 2012

Los Osos Oaks

While visiting my grandmother earlier this month, I took a bike ride to the Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve. I'm already a fan of oak trees, but this particular spot simply knocked my socks off--gorgeous grizzled coast live oaks that are estimated to be around 800 years old, and have a ton of character and expression in their branches.

There were so many amazing shapes to explore that I quickly realized it would be good to fill my sketchbook with little thumbnail sketches, to catch as many snippets as possible while I wandered around. In the margins around each mini-sketch, I've got notes on wildlife--lizard behavior, transcriptions of unfamiliar birdsong, etc. (Click on the image to get a zoomed-in version.)

Many of the trees had a lacy green fringe of lichen hanging from the branches. In fact, there were many species of lichen on those trunks--detail sketches of three obvious types on the left side of the pages above. It's pretty dry in July, but I imagine the lichens get very plump and verdant during the damper times of year on the coast.
 More mini-sketches from my hike. The variety in sizes and shapes was astonishing.
 I was delighted and mystified by how this group of trees was all bent in the same direction--what environmental factors had made that happen? And, of course, the reserve was full of other plants as well, had to stop and sketch the lupines and berries that were tucked in among these magnificent trees.
A watercolor study, looking at the colors and textures of the pale gray trunks against the low-slung canopy behind.

Very grateful to the folks in the community who had the forethought to protect this amazing habitat from being converted to farmland! And a hat tip to the wonderful sketcher Joe Linton as well, for inspiring me to visit this site when he posted his own sketches of the reserve.


  1. Very cool to see these through another sketcher's eyes! One of my favorite dozen places on the earth... though sad that this sort of now-rare landscape was probably common up and down the California Coast.

    Look - we sketched the same tree - in the bottom of your third piece posted - mine:

    1. This has got to be Joe's comment! Love that you posted the side-by-side comparison on your blog! One oak, two hands: