Now spend more time really looking at a tree in detail. Spend at least an hour on this drawing. Choose which media will suit the individual characteristics of ‘your’ tree.
Try to work fairly quickly so that you keep a free and flowing hand to follow the fluid lines and forms of the tree. What makes the tree distinctive? Its solid massive presence (a mature oak, horse chestnut, sycamore or ash), its airiness and delicacy (a birch), or its bent windblown form (a hawthorn)? You don’t need to draw twigs and branches in detail but try to capture a sense of directionality. Ash twigs curl. Beech twigs grow straighter and are almost on a horizontal plane when in leaf; in winter they reach up. Some Scots pine, larch and firs only branch out high up the trunk, making for a very distinctive form. Continually observe your subject and don’t be afraid to keep drawing without looking at your paper.
Notice the light source; see where the deepest shadows are and the strongest light (these are usually next to each other). Hint at texture by fluid use of shading or lines.
The tree I chose to study in detail was a beautiful and very old, gnarled Yew tree in my garden.
I started with a very rough pencil sketch. At this point I was not sure which direction I was going to take it and had also spent a very cold hour in the garden getting this drawing started. So I decided to take the drawing indoors and to complete it from a photograph taken from the same point I had been sitting.
Once indoors (and warm!) I decided I wanted to create a more detailed picture, so I switched to a fine pen (0.5mm) and stated to painstakingly detail the trunk. I was trying to be struck with myself about hatching and cross hatching neatly in order to build up the intensity of shadow and texture.