Recently I updated my microsite about drawing deciduous trees. I used the line sketch above to illustrate basic steps that can help beginners to draw such complicated matter as a tree top. As first step I suggest to draw the shape of the tree in order to get familiar with the proportions of trunk and tree top. Then bigger groups of leaves along the branches can be mapped, in a next step a more detailed structure of the foliage can be added and finally shadows in hatches can give some more volume to the drawing. This is a simple “recipe” for beginners. Further studies will train the eye and with more and more knowledge of the subject such “recipes” will be obsolete and drawing will evolve very relaxed.
I documented this sketch of a clearing in woods in a few snaphots with my mobile phone camera.
1.First the sky and the background were sketched with a big brush (2 inch brush from the DIY-market) in thin washes of colour
2.With the next smaller brush size (no16) some more detailed forms and darker tonalities were place in the background,wet in wet.
3.With a little thin brush the distant tree trunks were added.
4.Old foliage on young beech and oak were added. I covered the background and sky with an extra sheet of paper I always have with me and
splashes of red ocre were splattered on the uncovered foregound to imitate the impression of old reddish foliage.
5.The bigger trees in the middle ground were added using the small and the no16 brush.
6. Some detail in the foreground, such as the plastic tubes to protect the young oaks for example and some pale grass
I always start to draw/paint the tree trunk from the base, by turning the brush and loosening the presure I can reduce the thickness of the line towards the tree top. Starting to draw from the top downwards is a bit risky as the brush is loaded with colour and water and it is difficult to start with such a full brush with thin line and to get thicker lines later.
The piece of cloth I have with me is used to wrap the wet brushes and I also use it to wipe off excess water and colour from the brushes. Gouache is great for “dry brush” techniques. On tree trunks one can produce nice back like structures that way. Due to the wind and the sun the gouache dried quickly. The surface of the paper was almost dry when I finished. If the paper is still wet I use a wooden stick as “separator” between the pages.
This sketch represents our regional mixed hardwood forest quite well. Beech and oak are the dominant hardwood species accompanied by some pine, spruce and rarely silver fir. The soils are fairly heavy with lots of reddish clay which is not that suitable for conifers.
I love to draw the shape of a tree. Usually I start at the top and sketch the outline downwards. In this pen sketch I tried to identify areas with the same tonality and marked them with more or less dense hatches. I have seen works of painters who were able to work with 7-9 different tonalities from very bright to dark on each color. My world is rather flat in comparison, mostly I master only 4-5 tonalities.
Such an exercise on tonalities or values helps to see how the leaves of a tree are grouped due to the trees branch pattern. Also the major volumes become obvious. From there one can break down the tree top into smaller units if desired. The sketch shows the same group of apple trees from two different points of view.