Written in the branches of a baobab

After seeing the special baby name illustration that I created for little André, Chanel contacted me with a very exciting request: She wanted to gift her partner, Antu, an original baobab painting to add to his beautiful collection of artworks. Even more special, she wanted their names hidden in the branches and their red tent below the tree. How amazing is that?!

We took some time to discuss the style, and settled on a modern pen illustration, finished with a playful watercolour wash to add colour. Since I was drawing freehand using inspiration from various reference images, I sent Chanel a rough sketch to approve before I started the pen work.

This turned out to be quite a laugh -- having never seen a baobab in person, it was clear that I was totally ignorant of just how big they actually are! I had drawn the tent waaaay to big in comparison with the tree, and it took a few attempts to size it down to the correct dimensions. Thankfully, Chanel and Antu were lucky enough to camp next to an enormous baobab during this process, and she was able to send me great reference photos.

This was a fabulous commission to work on and I'm thrilled with the final piece! I love the personal touches -- the tent is such fun and will always be a reminder of great memories, while the subtlety of the names in the branches is romantic while still being unobtrusive (in fact, if you didn't know what to look for, you might not even notice them!).

What a thoughtful and unique birthday gift!


PS. I finally got to see PLENTY baobabs only about a week after completing this piece, on our fabulous family vacation to the Kruger National Park!

 illustration of baobab tree the happy struggling artist

My first sketch attempt on the left, with an enormous tent, vs the final version on the right.

pen baobab original illustration by the happy struggling artist

pen drawing of baobab tree the happy struggling artist

Couldn't resist the late afternoon light falling across the baobab's branches...!

baobab tree illustration the happy struggling artist

The pen layer all but done!

beautiful baobab illustration by the happy struggling artist

baobab illustration work in progress

This strange blue phenomenon is how I block out deep shadows in the piece. Remember, watercolour is a translucent medium. So bottom layers greatly affect layers added over them.

kitty supervising painting

Due to bad light, I wasn't sitting at any of my usual spots, but using a little camping table placed close to a window. Kitty was not impressed when she realised that, for the first time ever, she couldn't fit on my lap!

watercolour and pen baobab painting by the happy struggling artist_001

watercolour and pen baobab painting by the happy struggling artist_002

watercolour and pen baobab painting by the happy struggling artist_003

red tent illustration

The illustration, side-by-side with Chanel and Antu's real little red tent!

watercolour and pen baobab painting by the happy struggling artist_004

names written in branches of baobab painting the happy struggling artist

Can you see the names now??? Chanel and Antu...

watercolour and pen baobab painting by the happy struggling artist_005

If you're considering gifting a loved one (or yourself!!!) one of my original paintings, the time to convert your thoughts to action is NOW. I only accept a very limited amount of commissions during the second half of the year, so contact me ASAP to avoid disappointment.

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