In the early morning the deer hunter roams his revier. He hears a distant muffled clatter in the thicket, not much later here and there traces are found in the black moss covered soil, on young spruce the bark has been peeled off by the males rubbing their antlers. The twigs are broken quite high and big pieces of bark are removed which tells of a remarkable deer. The season has come, it is time to hunt the summer deer.
There are not many conifer forest around here. Therefore a spruce tree forest of a few acres offers a somewhat exotic atmosphere in comparison to the oak and beech trees. On my last visit I had done a quick ink study of trunks and spent some more time with photographs of the intriguing light and shadow effects that are typical for spruce tree forest, which usually tolerate no undergrowth. I decided to come back again for a more detailed sketch and to take a break from the masses of green foliage.
The image above shows the background sketch and the foreground. Then I added the spruce tree trunks from back- to foreground by using bristle brushes in various width. The spruce trunks in light were added at last in a mix of a bit red ochre and titanium white by Schmincke. In wet condition the white can look transparent or a bit greyish, but as soon as it dries the white pigment gets stronger and stronger and covers the under painting very well.
It was already raining a bit when I left home. First birds could be heard, especially the woodpeckers were very busy, spring is coming soon. I sat down in a dark, young douglas fir and spruce tree forest. Green algae covered some of the trunks and contrasted with the dark wet bark. The wind was roaring way up in the tree tops under grey sky.
I got quite a bit of a problem to bring the sketch home. The paper was flooded with color washes and the rain was getting harder. No chance to walk with the open sketchbook. Finally I decided to close the book with a wooden stick between the pages, which was not clever this time. I had to do a bit of repair at home, fix the broken page with tape and revive the trees in the center of the book.
In future I will have a nonwoven cleaning cloth with me to be placed between wet pages. I hope it will absorb the moist color and thus will avoid the mess I got today.
The rain left nice structures on the sheet, I like the washed out look. There is a lot of potential in these unfinished sketches,which I want to explore this summer in a more detailed landscape book in same format. In summer the gouache dries way too fast for my taste, perhaps I will take a spray can with water with me.
Our visual memory is a strong tool, but drawing always from life does not train us to recall what we have seen. On a workshop years ago I heard from the tutor that it is possible to draw almost everything we have seen from memory quite accuratly. It might take some effort to recall visual impressions of the past in a wake state, but why shouldn´t we be able to imagine things as clear as in many of our dreams?
Recently I have been doing many sketches and drawings from memory as for example the little tree landscape in this post.
Compared to Stephen Wiltshire my capabilities are simply embarrassing. I tend to think that Giovanni Piranesi had similar brain capacities to store uncounted details of buildings in his mind as there are hardly any detailed preparatory sketches or drawings by Piranesi.
The sketches of a spruce tree are finished now. On the third and last evening session I tried to draw the full tree. I took simple measurements with a wooden stick to learn about the proportions : Ratio of tree top and total height, width of the trunk and lateral expansion of the tree top. I used a small bristle brush to draw the masses of the needles and work over those areas with a metal feather later. There is a special silence in the woods, that I enjoy entirely. The sounds of August are coming the fruits of oak and beech trees fall down with typical sounds, only very few birds,mainly woodpeckers, can be heard.
I left the drawings partly unfinished. Viewers can see better how the drawing was made, unfinished drawings inspire the fantasy of viewers more than totally executed ones too
Some time back I started to keep a sketchbook in A3 Format which is only for studies in our nearby forests (Waldtagebuch).
Yesterday evening I began to draw an old spruce tree. The trunk of about 30 meters height and the tree top can be seen fully as a dark silhouette against the sky. The older spruce trees are, the more horizontal the branches get, with the smaller twigs hanging down like curtains. The needles of spruce trees fall off only after 6-7 years. Coniferous trees have very well adapted to climates with a short and cool vegetation period. Instead of ca. 120 warm days,which seems to be the least for most deciduous trees in our climate, they could live with only 30 days. The development of needles with longer duration than deciduous leaves certainly is a clever strategy to make use of less favourite seasons.
I will spent some more days with this drawing, the lower trunk will be placed on the next page and I want to draw also proportion study with the tree in full too. I am using only short, simple strokes with a metal feather and india ink. Beginning from the top I worked the way down first on the right side marking the connection of the major branches.