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Drawing Trees

sketching in the graveyard

At last the weather started picking up a bit in time for this part of the unit and I had some lovely mornings sat outside in the huge graveyard down the road where I spend so much time, looking at the trees and sketching. I enjoyed just really LOOKING at trees, in a way I don’t think I have done since I was little girl when I used to be sure I could see faces in the patterns of branches, with every tree on the way to school given a name and a personality. This time of year was perfect, with lack of foliage revealing the deciduous trees’ structure and frame and I feel like I started to learn how trees are put together. It’ll be good to do some more tree drawing over the summer if I can, to see the difference a full coating of leaves makes to drawing them.

I love the atmosphere and energy of trees, without sounding too much like a hopeless hippy, which I probably am, and I loved trying to get a sense of that in the drawings I did. I love how every time and age of tree is slightly different. This unit only just scratched the surface really and I’m looking forward to much much more tree drawing when I get the chance – I can see them being a favourite subject for a long time to come.

(click to make images bigger)

Exercise: Sketching an individual tree

Quick sketches sat on the grass. I tried to work big and quickly and not be too precious with my mark-making, concentrating on the trees’ basic shapes and structure and ‘feel’. The bottom picture was most fun to do – it was a windy day in strong sun and trying to get a sense of the light and wind and movement in the foliage was good fun.


Exercise: Larger study of an individual tree

I loved doing this one, spending half of it outside and finishing the rest from photos. The tree itself formed part of a much busier background of undergrowth and scrub but using what I’d learnt from my landscape drawing practice I tried to pick out the most important features. I focused on getting the overlay of branches right, with the contrasting texture of the older, thick wood, with the newer, greener growth. I used a variety of media on slighted toned A3 paper – graphite and charcoal and pastel and chalk to try and get a sense of its feel. It had been the gate that had first drew me to the scene, looking as twisted and old as the tree and the same colours making it feel almost an extension of it. A few subtle bits of colour and some textured grass helped to anchor the tree and give it a little more depth.

Exercise: Study of several trees

My course had suggested colour for this one, but the scene I chose was dark and heavy in shadow and graphite seemed better suited in getting the contrast right. I really relaxed into this one, using bold, quick marks on A3 to give the piece some energy and working the darkest tones really dark. The challenge was depicting individual trees in such a mass of foliage and deep shadow but I think I managed it just about, and liked the perspective depth that the scene gave me to really draw the eye in – THIS is definitely more my kind of perspective, rather than the straight-lined kind from my building studies. Leaving enough area of negative space was tricky to make sure there were enough lighter tones but I think I got the cast of light pretty well – the shadows helped give a sense of this. The temptation to draw too many branches was strong – I didn’t want to lose something in drawing too many, but could do with finding a way of suggesting more layers of branches - in reality you could hardly see the sky, but I didn’t want it to be too ‘busy’, which in earlier drawings I found had spoilt pictures a little.

I worked in one, long, absorbed session and again, really enjoyed this one.

I would have really liked more time on this section, I was just beginning to get into it when it was time to move on. Some more time spent different, individual trees would have been good, working out how to tackle each type of tree differently, and again, seeing what difference the summer growth would bring. I’d also like to do some more drawing concentrating on bark texture, too – some silver birches I looked at would have been perfect.


  1. Susan Mann

    I love trees and love drawing them. I used the study of trees in my higher art. Love your pictures. x

  2. Gorgeous pictures – you’re so talented! x

  3. awesome blog to read…love to read it, thanks for all.

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