The Quince’s Progress

Our neighbor’s house on the Cape was once a thriving and tended homestead, with gardens, grapevines,  and an orchard of fruit and nut trees. The place has gone through changes. The old farmhouse was torn down some years ago, and a large and luxurious Victorian-style house took its place. The new owners like the place very much, and come when they can, but have busy lives in the city. We don’t see them that often.

The homestead gardens are mostly gone, as are the grapes, which were taken out after being invaded by porcelain berry vines. . The walnuts are tall and doing well, but they feed mostly squirrels, who come from at least as far as a quarter of a mile away to collect the nuts. The neighbors are kind enough to let us pick from the remaining apple trees. In a good year, we pick a few bushels of fruit. Some years they’re wormy and diseased, other years they’re not bad, good enough that we make crisps and pies all fall, and are able to put up many quarts of applesauce.

There’s another, little, multi-branched fruit tree on the grounds. A quince tree. It’s a small plant compared to the apples or to the walnuts. The crop this year was plentiful. Some of the fruit ended up mixed into some applesauce, which was lightly colored and nicely flavored by the addition.

Every fall, in mid-September, we resume our natural history illustration classes in Woods Hole. We’ve been attending since 2006. Twice a week we gather at the home of our instructor, to draw for a good part of the morning. I spent the first month of classes working on the side view of a spider monkey skull.


Then, in mid-October, one of the neighbor’s quinces ended up on the drawing table. For the next month it shuttled in and out of our instructor’s refrigerator.

Here is the story of the progress of that drawing.

The photographs were taken about every two hours.


The quince

Twice life size seemed as if it would fill a piece of bristol board well.


The preliminary sketch is the best place to make mistakes.

After the first drawing, I’ll often test colors and techniques on a scrap piece of board. It’s helpful to refer to during the progress of the drawing.


Test card, photo taken just before starting the final drawing.

The drawing is transferred to the board, and the first layers of color are applied.



Working on the fruit.


Developing color and shadow.


Adding detail.


Starting on the leaves.


Continuing on the leaves. Refining fruit details.


Almost done.


Mid November.

The drawing was finished, and fixative applied.


After a month of shuttling in and out of the fridge, the quince was still in excellent shape, fully ripe, and incredibly fragrant. We left it with our teacher.

Who cooked it.

Added it to some applesauce.

And ate it.


8 responses to “The Quince’s Progress

  1. I don’t remember a quince, so perhaps it was an Emery tree rather than a Lesh tree…but I was young when the Lesh’s were farming there,.. any thoughts on the age of the tree?

  2. Sure! I’ll rap you up the next time we’re over. Sometime this week, weather permitting. We’ll be back and forth like a shuttle on on loom, juggling “sides”.

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