I collected some twigs to paint on my walk, and the first one I tackled was the horse-chestnut, or conker tree. These buds are gloriously fat and glossy, covered in a sticky sap which honey bees collect to make propolis, a sticky glue which lines the hive, making it draught- and water-proof as well as providing a layer of antibacterial protection. Bees also love the candle-like flowers, so all in all, it is a great bee plant, and I have two trees very near my garden up the farm track; one white, one red. These two trees are also a favourite landing spot for the cuckoos that reside here to breed in spring. This photo was taken on Mayday last year, with the two trees just about in flower, and a rainstorm on the way:

I used burnt umber to paint the twig – I am trying to limit myself slightly with the paints, although I did have a dab in some black/green gouache I had on my palette. I use the flat plastic inner lid of my stay-wet palette as I find the wells are less useful for mixing:

These blobs get added to and mixed around, and I can spritz them with a spray bottle to rehydrate them – or, as you can see from the droplets on the left, forget to empty my water jar so the cat dunks his paw in and sprays it everywhere…

Horse chestnut twigs have some beautiful details; note the horseshoe-shaped leaf scars for a good reminder of the species:

Here is my painting, which is done on an offcut of some Fabriano printing paper I have in one of may many drawers of art supplies:

I think I will do a series, although I have done the lime buds on Khadi paper, but I have a lot of offcuts to use. I also wondered about lettering down the side, to identify the tree, but I always baulk at that for some reason…it has been suggested to me on many occasions that I should name my bird species on the paintings! What do you think? I think it makes them look a bit twee.


  1. Think I’m with you about lettering for identification of birds maybe being a little twee. Not sure. But I do think it would work with the buds as, for moist of us, identifying them is not that easy/something we’re familiar with. Would be useful. I do like the detail of your studies. Makes one look at the tree in a new way. Can also see how your studies might frame well – perhaps a simple tall thin frame for each one. Could make a nice collection to hang on the wall. Unusual. Impressed how you find interesting stuff to study/paint at this grey and gloomy time of year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah ok, thanks for that, David 🙂 yes I might try and gather them together, although they are all on different sized bits of paper. They are remarkably colourful when you look at the buds and stems…


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