Part 3: Project 1: Trees

Exercise 1: Sketching Individual Trees

For this exercise, I decided to use a piece of A2 paper and divided it roughly into four (I didn’t measure this, I just drew a line roughly where I thought the centre was both vertically and horizontally). I walked around my local park and settled upon this tree for this exercise. I followed the instructions for the exercise but found them rather frustrating as the first and third instructions seemed almost identical, as did the second and fourth. I carried on regardless and am actually rather pleased with the outcome. I tried to stay very basic in my first and third sketches, focusing mostly on the outline, as instructed in my course manual, and then included more detail of the shadow in blocks of charcoal for the second, but with no real regard for the textures etc, trying to take note of my tutor’s comments in my feedback for Part 2 to try to use patches of tone as opposed to blending too much. For the fourth piece, I tried to show the shadows, as well as the textures of the mossy areas of the tree and also drew in more of the finer branches. I tried to stay rather fluid and quick within my sketches and was actually rather pleased with the fourth and final piece. I found I did not really look at my page for the first and third sketches as much as I did the second and fourth, but I think this was because I wanted to place the areas of shadow and texture as accurately as possible, whereas when it was just the outline, I was not as focussed on getting things in precisely the correct place.

I really enjoyed the fluidity of the charcoal, but think I would like to try using a biro for the next exercise, due to it asking for more detail to the tree and to take a longer time in doing so. The charcoal would be too quick for this I feel.

Exercise 1: Sketching individual trees

Questions from Course Textbook

What techniques did you use to distinguish one species of tree from another?

I tried to pay attention to how the bark differed; whether by colour, texture or pattern. I also tried to note the difference in the shapes and colours of the leaves, as well as how the branches and trunk grew or twisted. I also used an app to help me identify the species.

How did you convey the mass of foliage and the spaces between?

For this exercise, having tried to indicate the main shapes of the tree, I chose to zoom in and ignore the foliage, concentrating solely on the movement and shapes of the trunk and branches.

How did you handle light on the different parts of the tree?

I tried to use the method of scrunching up my face to see the fall of light on the tree. I used blocks of tone as well as rubbings in places to represent the texture / light fall on the trunk as I found that the light would find the contours of the bark, creating smaller patches of light and dark areas all over.

Did you manage to select and simplify? Look at your drawings and make notes on how you did this, and what you could have done better.

I think I was rather successful at simplifying, owing to my tutor’s comments regarding my assignment piece for Part 2. I do think the sketches could have been better if I had included the foliage and the difference in the light and dark patches of tone within them.

Exercise 2: Larger Observational Study of an Individual Tree

I began this exercise by drawing the outline of a tree I had come across in my local park. I tried to look closely at the outline of the tree, blocking out all of the background information to see the tree clearer.

Outline of tree in biro on A2 page

Next, I decided to work my way up the tree, adding in the tone of the tree and the blocks of tone in the shadows in the different parts of the tree’s flank and limbs. I specifically chose this tree due to the contrast in the patches of tone, which seemed to play a big part of my feedback, as well as the need to work on my form. The patches of tone in this tree almost abstracted the form of the tree, which helped me to see it better and not just to draw what I thought it should look like.

I didn’t want to apply too much in the way of background information to this piece, but wanted to ground the tree somewhat, so included a little area of grass around the bottom.

Creating the detail and patches of tone

I really tried to consider what my tutor had said in my feedback about depth and how I should create the outline first and then let my expressive mark-marking loose inside the outline. I think this exercise was perfect for that as the skin of the tree had so much movement with lines going this way and that way, so I really did have fun with this exercise.

Further work on patches of tone

Going off my tutor’s feedback and her comment regarding excess space within my piece, I decided to step back from the work I had done so far and rethink the piece. I decided if I were to continue with the top of the tree, it would become too top-heavy and the excess space was rather a lot. My tutor advised me to crop when I felt it necessary, so I listened to my instinct and decided to cut it down somewhat. There is still a fair bit of excess space in the piece to either side of the tree, but I think it adds a little illusion to the piece and, together with the patches of tone and cropping, creates a sense of abstraction.

Finished piece

Exercise 3: Study of Several Trees

For this exercise, I tried to remember my tutor’s comments regarding building my image in layers. I started with a layer of brown oil pastel, followed by a layer of green and then worked on adding the other colours I could see in my chosen viewpoint. I took a step back after this and realised the tree held no texture and there did not appear to be much definition between the foreground, middle-ground and background, so I decided to continue to lighten the background with a ‘wash’ of white oil pastel, as this was where the source of light from the daytime sitting had come from and then darkened and deepened the colours of the foreground somewhat with darker shades of the colours and also black oil pastel, and applied some texture throughout with expressive mark-making, but trying to maintain the three separate sections at the same time.


I really enjoyed studying the trees and thought it may be somewhat similar to drawing the human figure and all of the ways of movement both can achieve.

I think these exercises were brilliant in helping me practise my tonal work and to experiment on my tutor’s comments regarding this. Whilst I drew the outline of the tree, I did not bother much with trying to ‘draw’ a tree as opposed to drawing the different patches of black, white and varied strengths of grey, leading to what I think is a much better representation of the tree than if I were to have tried to draw the tree itself.

2 thoughts on “Part 3: Project 1: Trees

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