Aim of the exercise: To do about 4 preliminary drawings of a tree, building up on the basis of the previous sketches. 1) Draw a simple outline of the tree’s overall shape 2) Draw basic shapes in outline/shaded areas that describe how the foliage forms in different masses around the tree 3) Draw the outlines of the trunk and main branches 4) By drawing with lots of scribbled outlines/shading roughly try to indicate something of the texture of the foliage.
What I experienced:
Completed 23/08/13. I chose to draw a large Horse Chestnut tree that sits at the edge of a field. The exercise suggested sitting some distance from a big tree and the public footpath that runs through the field enables that.
I would not have thought to approach drawing a tree in the way instructed in the exercise and I found it a very helpful approach. By concentrating on different aspects such as overall shape etc in turn it helped me to build a better understanding of the structure of the tree. I used a 4B Derwent sketching pencil for the first 3 drawings and then used HB, 2B and 4B Derwent sketching pencils for the final drawing. A4 sketchbook 2, pages 46-49.
While drawing the basic shapes that described how the foliage forms in different masses around the tree, the light was changing frequently as the sun diasppeared and then reappeared behind the increasing cloud. It made a surprising difference to the areas of foliage that I could pick out as shapes, some disappeared completely, others suddenly becoming visible.
There very few main branches visible, it showed just how thick the foliage was. I think that I could see these branches but it was hard to tell against the foliage. This whole area was in shadow, which meant I could not see very well and I think that there was another trunk behind the dark one in the drawing. The trunk did not appear to be in the centre of the tree. There was more foliage to the right than the left (but I have moved it too far to the left in this drawing).
I had to take a break before the final drawing as a tractor came to cut the grass in the field. It meant that the light had changed a lot by the time it was finished. It was pretty cloudy by then and just beginning to get a little misty. The main foliage areas were still visible though. I used a mix of lots of scribbled marks and also some shading. I found that I did not know how to make marks show that this is a Horse Chestnut. I was too far away to see much in the way of individual leaves, although the lower lit areas clearly had what appeared to be leaf shapes in them. When I tried to show them, though, it didn’t look right.
What I feel went well: I found it very helpful to look at the main foliage areas as shapes, I think that it was one of the most useful stages for me, as during the exercises sketchbook walk, and 360 degrees studies, I had found it very difficult to show foliage successfully.
What I feel did not go well: I don’t think that I have managed to show volume very well, as the tree looks rather flat, although I think that the exercise has helped me to improve on what I have managed in the past. If I did not know that this was a Horse Chestnut I am not sure that I would be able to tell from the drawing.
What I would like to do following this exercise: I would like to practice on as wide a range of trees as I can so that I can discover ways of being able to successfully show individual species characteristics. I will also need to practice showing volume better. I do not know very much about trees so it will be good to learn enough that I can identify some of the species. I would like to look at the ways that other artists have depicted trees and the marks that they have used.