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Pencil sketch of alder tree in St Catherine's Valley near Bath UK

Posted On: Wednesday 22nd February 2012
Summary: Quick pencil sketch in St Catherine's valley near Bath

Blog Tags: Sketching   Plein air   Simple art   Painting trees   Quick painting   Pencil   How to sketch   Painting tips   

alder tree sketch in pencilOne of the nice things about sketching trees is that you can let your pencil wander as you look up and down at your subject. I never tire of sketcing trees because describing each branch is like going on a small journey. Let your pencil almost trace its own route. Every tree - to state the obvious - is different. But you wouldn't think so when you look at most amateurs' pictures of trees. I would make trees painted with sponges illegal if I ruled the world!

Try and draw what you see, in a relaxed sort of way. Observe the different characteristics of the species you are drawing. For example, alders like this one - which love to grow in wet conditions - often sprout thick growths like this near the ground with thin branches shooting out like whiskers.

Another major shortcoming of many tree sketches and paintings is that they have no depth. Odd as it may seem, I found that Life Classes helped with my tree painting. Not a comment on the models I hasten to addsmiley.  But drawing the human form reminded me that a body has form and depth - so do trees. There should be a difference in weight between the branches reaching towards you and those at the back of the tree pointing away from you. Trees are not like paper cutouts of Christmas trees!

Another way of giving depth to trees is to make sure branches overlap each other as they do in real life - light over dark or vice-versa. And if the sun is shining on bare branches, there will always be shadows of branches in the foreground casting band-like shapes on some that are behind them. Make sure you put them in. Winter is the perfect time for making the most of this effect, since there are no leaves to obscure the shape of branches, and the sun is low in the sky, casting interestint shadows within the trees forms.

Studies of individual trees like this pay dividends when you are painting a more general landscape scene in which trees feature because even when you are making a tree up from your imagination, it is more likely to look convincing than if assembled from standardised techniques like sponging and dry-brush dragging and tubes of "tree colours".


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