Aim of the exercise: To spend time really looking at a tree in detail. Using A3 paper and a fine drawing medium e.g. drawing pen, pencil or ballpoint, try to capture what makes the tree distinctive, drawing fast, continually observing the tree, noticing the light source and hinting at texture by fluid use of shading or lines.
What I experienced:
Completed 25/08/13. I ended up having to do two drawings for this exercise as I managed to empty ink over the one that I used Indian ink and a bamboo and dip pen with. I am not sure what kind of pine the tree was that I picked. I thought that it was a Scots Pine but looking in the tree book there is quite a bewildering range of pines, so it may be one of the other ones. Whichever it is, it was a stunning tree.
I initially chose to use a bamboo pen and Winsor and Newton Indian ink, A3 sketchbook. I had found it very helpful, in the previous exercise, to draw shaded areas that showed the main tonal contrasts on the foliage, and I did that again by drawing a rough sketch in pencil prior to starting the drawing. It was only very rough but it was helpful to do. Starting on the drawing I found that I could not get very thin lines with the bamboo pen, even though it had a fine point so I added in a dip pen, where needed, as well. The instructions for the exercise had stressed drawing fast, with a free and flowing hand, continually observing the tree and not to be afraid of drawing without looking at the paper. I tried to do all of these as much as I could, but I was finding it quite hard to relax into it. It would also have been better to have used a fibre tip pen as I kept having to break off to dip the pen in the ink. I had got about half way with the drawing when disaster struck. A wasp landed on my arm and was about to disappear up my sleeve so I jerked my arm so that it would fly off again. Now, that would have been fine if I had not been holding the bottle of ink in that hand and I ended up with some very large splots of ink, particularly on the left hand bottom area of the paper. It looked a right mess! After a somewhat stunned break, cleaning as much ink off me as I could, I decided to continue with the drawing but use it as a practice one. I was finding it difficult to get enough tonal variation into the shaded areas with the ink. As the ink ran out on the bamboo pen it gave me a lighter tone but I could not get it to work very well in describing the shaded foliage areas, and I was tending to do the shading either too heavy or too light, resulting in the foliage areas tending to look quite flat. I tried darkening some areas but with the bamboo pen they tended to be too heavy and with the dip pen too fussy. I found that I could not work out what would help and I will need to try and resolve this at a later date in another drawing. Upon completing the tree I remembered that Alexander Cozens in A New Method of Landscape had turned ink blots into landscape features so I gave it a go, turning one of the large ones into a rock and the other large one into a muddy/marshy puddle. Smaller ones became stones, grasses or path. I have done it pretty clumsily but it was fun.
I took a break and then started the drawing again, this time using pencil, A3 sketchbook. I felt I had done enough damage with ink for one day. I found that I was able to get better tonal variation with the pencil and I tried to keep the drawing fast and free flowing with more time looking at the tree than the paper, while still drawing. I think because I had already drawn it in ink I was able to relax more with this version. I felt the drawing was reasonably successful when finished but I have still found it difficult to give volume to the foliage. I had not, however, placed the drawing on the paper well, it is too far to the left and would have been better to have filled the paper more. I tried cropping it on the computer to see what it would look like and have put them together here. The original drawing is on the left and the computer cropped version is on the right. I think that it shows that better placement would have helped the drawing.
What I feel went well: I am pleased that I continued with the ink version, it proved to be good practice and good to try and incorporate the ink splots into the drawing (even if not done very well). I was also pleased to be able to draw the tree a little bigger in the pencil version, although it would have been good to have filled the paper more, as in the computer cropped version. The pencil marks, for shading, have a variety of tone to them and I did my best to keep them free flowing and a lot of the shading marks were drawn while looking at the tree rather than the paper.
What I feel did not go well: I am finding it difficult to successfully show volume with the foliage in trees, this is an area that will need a lot more practice. I will also need to practice getting better tonal variation with pen and ink. As already mentioned, the pencil drawing could have been placed on the paper better and if it had not been for the ink splots the pen and ink tree would have been far too small for the A3 page.
What I would like to do following this exercise: I will need to try and practice as many trees as I can so that I can work on showing the tonal variations in foliage better and to show volume better. To that end I have been doing some sketches in my sketchbooks, experimenting with a variety of media to try and work on these aspects but I am still finding that my trees tend to look rather flat. I had already started with a quick sketch of a tree in the ?pine family, prior to starting this project, small square sketchbook p.89, trying to capture its essence quickly, looking for the main shapes and tones. A couple of days later I tried a tree that I saw while in a car park in graphitint pencils, A5 sketchbook 2, page 72. I aimed to capture the main areas of foliage and was trying for a looser and more relaxed approach but it has come out very flat, stilted and badly drawn. It was a good lesson though that I would need to make sure that I observed much more carefully. I wasn’t sure how best to use the graphitint pencils and will definitely need more practice with them. Today I had the chance to try some more trees while visiting some park gardens. I saw an amazing triangular tree with the edges of the foliage highlighted by the sun. I tried using some watersoluble oil pastels and tried out using them on the back of some brown wrapping paper, A5 sketchbook 2, page 79. Everything has ended up looking pretty solid and unreal and I struggled to show the range in the greens successfully. I ended up drawing in the sky bluer and bluer to try and make the tree stand out. Lots more practice is going to be needed with colour as well as I really got myself in a bit of a pickle with it all. I tried using a mix of pastel pencils and Conté hard pastels for the next attempt, this time using a limited palette, A3 sketchbook. It was a gorgeous tree and I enjoyed attempting it. I tried to interpret what I was seeing and keep it as free and fresh as I could and I think that this was probably the most successful of the drawings that I tried today. For the final attempt I tried a white gel pen on black paper, A4 size. I am not sure what type of tree this was but it was a fairly young tree and quite light, delicate and airy, which I tried to capture. I couldn’t manage to get enough tonal variation with the gel pen so tried adding in black pastel over the gel pen and also some white pastel to highlight, which has only been partially successful.
I think that I am capturing shape better as I draw more trees but I am still struggling to successfully show volume and tonal variation. I am also going to need to do a lot more practice with colour for trees as I seem to get quite lost when I attempt that. I have enjoyed trying the drawings that I did today. As a first next step I want to look at how other artists have used colour when drawing trees.