Drawing Trees – Check and Log

Larger Study of an Individual Tree

How many different tree types have you drawn?

I actually thought I had drawn 3 different tree types but looking at the drawings again and my photos I think I have only drawn two, three if you count the strangler fig as a species iof tree. I thought that the trees in the study of a several trees exercise were a different species from the Banyan tree in the Larger Study of an Individual tree but looking at them now I think the tree in the latter is the same tree in the later stages of being strangled to death by the fig.

What techniques did you use to distinguish each type?

I’d say smoothing and hatching the first ‘Alien’ tree in the sketching individual tree exercise was very smooth like it was naked without bark. So smooth that you could see the stretch marks in the tree so for this tree I used very fine hatching, smoothing with my finger and erasing with the putty rubber. For the individual Banyan tree I used more hatching and did less smoothing but with the study of several trees it was all very rough hatching with oil pastels.

What did you do to convey the mass of folioge?

The banyan trees were pretty much borrowing most of their folioge but where their was some I used squiggling and the sketches of an individual tree I came to realise that the leaves were in groups of three and so I squiggled in a kind of upside down Adidas trifoil shape not that it is noticeable in the drawings. To convey depth I then shaded in under the squiggles with more pressure on the pencil.

How did you handle light on the trees? Was it successful?

For the first sketches the light was above the folioge and so I showed light and shadow on the tree by way of hatching and yes I think I was successful. For the larger study of an individual tree the sun was behind the tree and so the whole of the tree was very dark but I depicted the light shining through the branches on the right by drawing the trees fainter than on the left. I don’t know how others will see it but it worked for me. I was going to use the putty rubber to show rays of light shining through but I sprayed it too soon.

Larger Study of an Individual Tree
Larger Study of an Individual Tree

In the last exercise I used colour, it was early evening, and I think I managed to show this quite well in my drawing.

 Did you manage to select and simplify? How did you do this, and what could you do better?

I did this differently in all three exercises. In the first exercise it was a case of not drawing to the top of the tree and only drawing what I felt was important, the roots, the trunk and the squiggled leaf shapes that framed the branches and trunk.

In the second exercise, I wasn’t too sure where branches and leaves were coming from and would have probably had to draw another 5 plants and bushes to get to the source, so I decided draw only what was within the branches of the Banyan tree.

With the third drawing, a study of several trees I simplified by zooming in, I could probably do better next time by drawing more of the branches of the trees. However, I am still pretty pleased with the close up of the trees in the finished drawing.


Study of Several Trees

My finished Study of Several Trees

While in the park browsing unique trees for the last two exercises I came across this group of trees and just had to take a photograph. I have no idea what kind of trees they are but they seem to be the same tree as the Banyan in the last exercise at the early stages of being latched on by the strangler fig, I don’t know why but they made me think of wailing banshees.

My chosen group of trees
My chosen group of trees

Being in a great location with a European style bridge visible in the background and some nice reflections in the water behind them, I had no doubt at all that it would be these trees that I would be drawing for this exercise until it came down to choosing the medium. Given the trees surroundings oil pastels were ideal but on A3 quite clumsy and so I thought twice about them. I also thought twice about drawing these trees and started to look at other photos I had taken.

My finished Study of Several Trees
My finished Study of Several Trees

In the end I did like the brief suggested and zoomed in on the three trees in the centre until I thought they were large enough to work on in oil pastel and give some texture through hatching rather than clumsily sketching from a distance. Being late with my third assignment I was dying to rush through this piece but I decided to take it steady and use a second sheet to get colours and blends right before committing to the final piece. There would have been nothing worse than getting half way through the drawing and messing up.

testing oil pastelsI love the final drawing, which, because of the texture of the paper seems to be made up of little dots which reminds me of a George Seurat painting and has given me some ideas for my assignment piece.


Larger Study of an Individual Tree

Larger Study of an Individual Tree

I have no idea what kind of tree I drew in the last exercise ‘Sketching an Individual Tree‘ but my subject for this exercise was very interesting. In the same ‘Trees in Literature’ section of the park was a Banyan tree, and this one was a wonderful example.

The Banyan Tree

The Banyan tree or ‘strangler fig’ is the national tree of India, it is pollinated by fig wasps and then the seeds are dispersed by fruit eating birds. If the seed is dropped on soil it is unlikely to survive but often the seeds are dropped on branches of other trees, where they germinate and send roots to the ground. The strangler fee often envelops part of the host tree and is also known to starve the host tree until it has rotted away inside.

The tree in Chatuchak park had been well and truly taken over and it looked to me like the strangler fig was squeezing the host tree so tightly that the tree had been deformed by it’s grasp, with the branches of the host reaching out in every direction as though they were desperately reaching out for help.

Larger Study of an Individual Tree
Larger Study of an Individual Tree

The sun was behind the tree facing me and so the tree was quite dark which was great because I got to use some wonderful tones and like the previous drawings of my alien tree in the last exercise the finished drawing came off looking quite ‘bio arty’.

I started with a 6B pencil and then realised after about an inch of drawing, that the 6B pencil on the more toothy A3 sheet I was using, was far too smudgy and so quickly changed to a 4B pencil.

I began by drawing the outlines of the branches in the top left hand corner of the paper and then drawing in the leaves with a squiggly line technique and from their I moved onto the texture of the branches and then did the same with the top right hand corner working my way down to the tree trunk. This was to make sure I didn’t smudge anything with the palm of my hand. Finally I worked my way to the roots of the tree through the tree trunk.

With the sun being behind the tree I had to try and depict the sun shining through the tree branches and leaves in some way. I tried doing this by drawing the leaves more lightly on the right hand side. I was going to drag my putty rubber lightly over the top from the center of the leaves outwards in a star shape but then forgot and sprayed the drawing with hair lacquer too early.

Most of the leaves that are in the drawing are not on the tree itself but rather on the trees around it with the host tree being practically bare but I wanted to use the branches of the Banyan tree to frame the life of the other trees above and behind it. The reason why I did not do a full background to the drawing was that it would not have done the tree justice plus I wanted to make it look like the life within the branches was spilling over through the roots of the fig hanging off the branches.

Sketching an Individual Tree

Sketching an Individual Tree 4th Drawing

For this exercise I headed out to Suan Rot Fai Park again, railway park, where I did most of my work for Landscape Drawing. There was a eucalyptus tree there that really interested me due to it’s amazing rainbow colours. However, on the way there the traffic was so bad due to yellow shirt roadblocks in that area that we jumped out of the tuk tuk and decided to walk the rest of the way which was about a kilometre. To get to Suan Rot Fai we had to walk through another park, Chatuchak park which is just past the famous JJ weekend market and that was when the magic happened.

There were hundreds of people in the park and most of those were yellow shirt protesters who were using Chatuchak park as a campsite and using the public toilets there as temporary showers. Anyway to get to Suan Rot Fai I had to walk around the whole inside of the park and in doing so I came across a section of the park called, trees in literature (translated from Thai), which was basically a collection of trees from fairy tale movies.

Sketching an Individual Tree 1st Drawing
Sketching an Individual Tree 1st Drawing

The first tree that took my eye looked like two alien hands coming together and I just had to put pencil to paper. I split my sketchbook page in half and did two preliminary drawings at that size one of the trunk and one of the roots.

Sketching an Individual Tree 2nd Drawing routes
Sketching an Individual Tree 2nd Drawing roots

Both drawings were in 6B but with the paper being almost toothless looked just the same as 3B or 4B, I thought it was the Mars Lumograph pencils that left less lead on the paper until the next exercise.

Sketching an Individual Tree 3rd Drawing
Sketching an Individual Tree 3rd Drawing

The next drawing was on a full page of the whole tree, or most of the tree including roots, bark and foliage and like the brief said I built up on the two previous preliminary sketches and the tree was really starting to come alive, reminding me of a bio art tattoo especially the roots and where the twin trunks meet. I didn’t think I could improve on it but my next drawing proved me wrong.

Sketching an Individual Tree 4th Drawing
Sketching an Individual Tree 4th Drawing

There were details the tree was missing, things that we see all the time in tree but never give a thought to, stretch marks! I only started to notice them on the last drawing  so I managed to depict these stretch mark lines pointing a putty rubber and dragging it across the widest part of the trunk and branches.

I have been drawing trees throughout this module or at least leaves and branches of them and there has been so much green that I haven’t enjoyed drawing them at all until now and I was really looking forward to the next having already chosen my next subject.

Townscapes – Check and Log

Section of School in 3B and Dry Watercolour Pencils

How did you use a limited colour palette to create a sense of depth?

Firstly I chose three colours that I knew would go well together, chocolate brown pastel pencil, Black and Sanguine Conté pencils and a Derwent Chinese white drawing pencil. I used the three colours together to create a sense of depth when drawing the trees then on the buildings, shadows etc. I used the pencils at different pressures to create light and dark tones. The Chinese white helped to relieve the colour if I put too much pressure on on the first attempt. Hatching and cross hatching also helped me to take the colours even deeper.

Did your preliminary sketches give you enough information for your final pieces of work?

Undoubtedly yes, they also helped me to eliminate details that I did not need and simplify more difficult parts of the buildings and scenes for the final pieces.

Would you approach this task differently another time?

It depends on the task at hand, a sketchbook of townscape drawings, no, A limited palette study from your sketches, no but drawing statues definitely yes and hopefully at a different time there will not be obstacles preventing me from getting around my adopted city for Drawing Statues.

Have you got the scale of the buildings right?

Yes, most definitely scale is one thing I am very aware of and I believe that all buildings in the drawings are to scale.

Have you captured the colour and atmosphere in your drawings? How did you do this?

In the pencil sketches I think I captured the atmosphere quite well with use of shadow. As I said in the ‘A sketchbook of townscape drawings exercise’ it was a fresh morning and with the shadows cast from the trees around the temple it reminded of me of a road near my home in Wakefield, for me the sketches still arouse these emotions. However, the limited palette study does not seem to depict the brightness and freshness of the day and I’m left wondering what I could have done differently.

Angular Perspective

Angular Perspective - LIne Drawing

For this exercise I decided to use the temple next to my school, that my school gets its name from ‘Wat Makut’, Wat meaning temple. Temple’ grounds usually contain several buildings including monks quarters…dorms or whatever you would like to call them, the cremation furnace, schools for teaching student monks and a host of other buildings. After a walk around the temple I decided to draw what I think is a school room as it had a blackboard outside.

The best thing about Thai buildings is that they are mostly right angles and so it’s quite easy to get the angles and perspective correct when drawing however the downfall is that Thai temples are really quite technical structures and there was a lot more right angles than I was hoping for.

I started out by drawing the roof and the windows and although I knew this was supposed to be an exercise using only line it did help to block in the windows and doors with solid shapes especially on the irregular shaped roof I also drew the wall at the side in the same way buy blocking in the square shapes in the wall and then erasing the solid shapes and going over the outlines again with just line.

Angular Perspective - LIne Drawing
Angular Perspective – Line Drawing

Although the drawing may look like I have used a ruler it was done completely freehand  and it was by no means easy erasing and correcting every line in the drawing at least three times, and now and again erasing large sections of the drawing to start again. Getting things ‘just right’ seems to be my biggest weakness, it would have been a lot easier to do a tonal drawing of the building and I’m looking forward to doing so at some stage.

I marked on the drawing where I think the eye level is but I was sat on a chair outside the main temple building to draw it and I couldn’t really walk over and maintain the same level to check if I was correct. I thought I would have been able to do this at home but unfortunately the drawing fit too well on the paper and I couldn’t even check the vanishing points properly as the rings holding the paper wouldn’t let the ruler sit flat in order to draw the lines through to the other sheet of paper.

However from continuing the lines to where I think the eye level is it seems that the front of the building maybe slightly out which I can live with as I think I did quite well on this exercise. The drawing too me nearly three hours over two days and although the temperature here in Bangkok had dropped considerably over the last week the sun was still scorching hot.


Plotting Space Through Composition and Structure

5 - Photo of drawing with no reflection

‘The aim of this exercise was to establish a foreground, middle ground and background in your drawing. If you can compose and structure your drawing to include these divisions you are then beginning to establish a sense of space in the structure of your drawing. This way of organising space is characteristic of the French classical painters Nicholas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, who in turn influenced the British landscape artist, Joseph Mallord William Turner.’

Now I had already had a glimpsed at some of Claude Lorrain’s paintings but one painting that really inspired me for this exercise was Frederic Edwin Church Heart of the Andes that I looked at in an earlier research point Different Artists’ Depictions of Landscape.

With the red shirts and yellow shirts kicking off here in Bangkok my school has been closed for 3 or 4 days every week for the last week, with them calling a truce just for today, the king’s birthday. Anyway with time off work we made the decision to go away to Sarabruri  for a couple of days and so I decided to take my pencils, an A3 drawing pad and drawing board.

The view from our room balcony at Saraburi
The view from our room balcony at Saraburi

The lodge where we stayed was overlooking some beautiful – what I would call – mountain shaped hills but when we arrived on the first day it was already knocking on so I set my alarm and got up at 6 am.

The mountains looked great with the mist glowing above and in front of them and I knew they wouldn’t look like that forever so I took a few snaps with the camera first and took a great shot, the one above, which was framed with a tree. Using my view finder I began to draw knowing that I could work from the photos later. I had decided to work entirely in Derwent watercolour pencil for the following reasons:

  • Less waxy than Derwent Artists’ Pencils
  • Easy to erase
  • Easy to blend
  • If I needed to I could use them wet

I decided to work from the background down to the foreground as I wanted to get the mountains and the sky just right, However I spent so long working on the mountains that the mist was clearing and I had to keep resorting back to looking at the photo on my Galaxy Tab.

1 - Mountains and Sky Backgrund
1 – Mountains and Sky Backgrund

The second step was the middle ground, the mist had all but lifted by now but using the photo on the tablet as reference I blocked in the middle ground areas with a a blend of grey, violet and blue and then drawing in the trees in thew distance with a 2 shades of green and grey to depict the trees appearing out of the mist.

2 - Middle Ground Complete
2 – Middle Ground Complete

Up until now everything was going well but I was about three hours in and so that I didn’t  ignore the girlfriend I decided to finish off the foreground, frame the picture with a tree then finish the rest of the drawing off back home in Bangkok and too be honest I was a bit overwhelmed by how many trees I had to draw so needed a break anyway.

3 - Plotting Space through Composition and Structure - Watercolour Pencil Mostly Dry
3 – Plotting Space through Composition and Structure – Watercolour Pencil Mostly Dry

When it came to drawing the big trees in the foreground I started by drawing the outlines of the trees in a lighter coloured pencil, then using irregular hatching for the branches from dark to light colours.

4 - Plotting Space through Composition and Structure - Sky finished
4 – Plotting Space through Composition and Structure – Sky finished

I noticed there is a project coming up called Drawing Trees, for me it would have been better to have done that first before this project as I have been drawing nothing but trees since A Sketchbook Walk and it has been a struggle. and this exercise was no different.

5 - Photo of drawing with no reflection
5 – Photo of drawing with no reflection

Due to me not using watercolour paper I refrained from drawing wet until I needed to and that was on the largest tree and three at the side that I framed the drawing with.

To be honest not much of this drawing turned out the way I wanted it to, background great, middle-ground great but then the foreground just changed everything and made the drawing look like some kind of dodgy cartoon. However I am not going to start again as I believe I have achieved the goal of this exercise which was to establish a foreground, middle ground and background in my drawing.

Research Point: Different Artists’ Depictions of Landscape

Church Heart of the Andes

For the first research point in this part of the course, ‘Drawing Outdoors’ We were asked to look at different artists depictions of landscapes, for example Albrecht Dürer, Claude Lorrain and L.S. Lowry.

Albrecht Dürer

Albrecht Dürer 1471-1528 gave us some of the earliest and finest works of the ‘Northern Renaissance’ with some wonderful landscape paintings, however, with the next exercise ‘a sketchbook walk’ coming up, I decided to look for some of Dürer’s more sketchy works.

The first painting I came across was a painting called Quarry, I searched on Google to try to find more information on this painting but to no avail, all I found was other paintings in colour of the same name. Looking at the painting at a first glance I thought it was a drawing in pencil but then realized it was a watercolour but it does look like he may have used other media such as pencil to finish the piece. The mark making techniques he has used in the painting are very simple and yet he has managed to create a good sense of three dimension with thin strong lines for the turfs of grass and weeds in the foreground to the wide, smudged brush strokes for the trees in the background and everything else in between. I particularly like the mark making techniques he has used for the leafs of the trees as he has depicted what we see has very complex objects with a series of simple shapes.

Quarry - Albrecht Durer
Quarry – Albrecht Durer

Another painting that I really liked was ‘Forest Glade with a Walled Fountain by which Two Men are Sitting’. I haven’t found the details of this drawing but it looks more like a drawing in pen and ink than a drawing. At first I couldn’t determine whether the artist had no time to finish the painting or if he had deliberately left it unfinished but then I realized that he was trying to show the light shining in through the trees on the left hand side of the picture and the dark forest in the background.

Forest Glade with a Walled Fountain by Which Two Men are Sitting 1505
Forest Glade with a Walled Fountain by Which Two Men are Sitting 1505 Albrecht Durer

Again, like the first painting he has used many different mark making techniques using hatching and cross hatching for the fountain, as well as the two men and various hatching techniques to show the density of the forest behind. I can also see that he has used the same simple marks for the leaves on the trees as the first painting which works really well.

L.S. Lowry (1 November 1887 – 23 February 1976)

Laurence Stephen Lowry, was born in Stretford, Lancashire in 1887 and as a northerner as always been a favourite  of mine.

Lowry is famous for his paintings depicting life in various industrial districts in the Northwest of England in a very distinctive style of painting.

Because of his use of stylised figures and the lack of weather effects in many of his landscapes he is sometimes characterised as a naïve “Sunday painter”, although this is not the position of the galleries that have organised retrospectives of his works. – Wikipedia.

L.S. Lowry Industrial Landscape 1955
L.S. Lowry Industrial Landscape 1955

The oil painting, Industrial Landscape 1955, below is a great example of Lowry’s industrial landscape paintings. What I like about Lowry’s paintings especially this one is that the building, bridges, houses etc. are made up of very simple shapes, mostly rectangles and squares and yet he still manages to create feeling in his paintings with the help of factory smoke and dismal skies plus the background that fades to almost nothing helps not only to create a sense of distance but of smog and pollution being caused by the factory chimneys. Although the perspective is not perfect he creates a sense distance by painting the landscape lighter and lighter as he moves into the background eventually fading to a blue-grey; as well as painting objects like trees, bushes, chimneys and spires with simpler and smaller shapes so that they appear far-off.

L.S. Lowry An Industrial Landscape 1958
L.S. Lowry An Industrial Landscape 1958

I tried to find a larger image of the following painting but to no avail. Also titled An Industrial Landscape the painting was bought for 300 GBP in 1959 and sold for 600,000 GBP in 2007. Again you can see how he paints the buildings in lighter and lighter shades in the background to give the impression they are disappearing into an industrial smog.

Finding a Substitute for Claude Lorrain

I noticed that I would be researching Claude Lorrain again later on in this module and so I set out to find a substitute. I first searched for Claude Lorrain on Google which took me to the Baroque period from there I clicked on a link to Landscapes which took me to page of wonderful landscapes on Wikipedia with Landscape Paintings of artists from all different periods.

The first painting that jumped out at me was a painting by Caspar David Friedrich, titled Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818, which is a classic image from German Romanticism. I recently watched a series of documentaries about German art on the BBC and this painting was used in the credits. My kind of painting really, simple and yet the landscape he has painted catches the imagination wondering what is below the peaks, and below the cloud line. Again as in paintings by the other artists in this research point the trees on the mountain ridges are made up of very simple squiggles and other shapes but its not something you notice straight away. I love the way he has used what I think are long twisted brush strokes with a darker colour over the lighter colour in the background to create the effect of mist rolling down the ills to the center of the picture.

Caspar David Friedrich: The wanderer above the Sea of Fog
Caspar David Friedrich: The wanderer above the Sea of Fog 1818

The next image that caught my attention was a painting by Frederic Edwin Church titled The Heart of the Andes, 1859. Unlike the previous painting this is by no means simple, I couldn’t even begin to think about where this guy started or what techniques he used, say, for the trees, but the mountains in the background are pure inspiration. They seem to be layers and layers of colour painted over the blue sky background making their way to ground level with the white snowcapped mountains in the background taking your mind on a journey around the mountains in front to get to them.

Church Heart of the Andes
Frederic Edwin Church Heart of the Andes