This yellow tree is a Kentucky Coffee. It’s on the boulevard along our house in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on the 11th Street side of our corner lot. We planted it 6 years ago to replace a large maple that had been toppled by a violent windstorm. My husband is passionate and opinionated about trees. He was set on a Kentucky Coffee and not just a spindly sapling. Even though it is a native species, nurseries didn’t have any. “Just not in demand”, we were told. My husband tracked this one down: a local arborist (with an interest in obscure trees) had rescued it (dug it up) from the University of Northern Iowa campus when a building project would have otherwise necessitated cutting it down. My husband swooned with tree love from the moment he spotted it growing on the arborist’s orphanage-for-rescued-trees acreage.
Fertilized, deep-root watered through dry spells, and pruned of lower branches so the snowplow and garbage truck wouldn’t swipe it: it’s been pampered. We see it from our kitchen table window. It’s grown straight and tall and bushy, obviously happy in its new spot.
In autumn, it is the first deciduous tree in the neighborhood to change color and lose its leaves. From first hint of yellow to all the leaves falling is a matter of just a few days. There was no time to procrastinate to get this painting done. I chose this angle because of how the much larger maple, beyond, framed it. I did a preliminary sketch in my pocket-size Moleskine before launching onto a 12” X 18” Fabriano Artistico cold press watercolor block. I did a quick under-drawing with Derwent brown ochre pencil, then just watercolor. By the time I started to paint, the vehicles, recorded in the sketch, had moved. I chose to leave out the stop sign, wanting to highlight the sidewalk, the shadows and the trees further down the street.