Really look at a tree in detail. Choose which media will suit the individual characteristics of the tree and spend at least an hour on the drawing.
My tree was a large stand alone beech tree that had already lost most of its leaves when I drew it. The day was very overcast and it was late in the afternoon. Hence most of the tree was in silhouette, but what defined it was the dark, spikyness of the sparse branches against the grey sky and the overall ‘tallness’ of the tree. I chose a fine drawing pen on A3 paper for this exercise. I had to sit quite a distance from the tree to be able to view it all.
I tried to capture what light there was falling on the tree by showing tonal variations on the trunk through cross-hatching. This was ok lower down at eye level, but the tree was so tall that everything above eye-level tended towards one dark tone, with the tree in dark silhouette towards the top. Admittedly this is what drew me to the tree in the first place, but it didn’t really make for an interesting drawing. It didn’t help that I was sitting a long way away, so actually viewing fine detail was hard. The challenge was depicting the changing pattern of light on the leaves. On the lower half of the tree, there were parts of the leaves that caught the light. As I worked up the tree the leaves changed into darker tones until completely in silhouette.
I had trouble fitting the tree onto my paper – I’ve let the top run to the very edge. I think the tallness of the tree comes across – that trunk goes up and up but I wish I had put a fence or something in behind it to show relative heights. I am rather embarrassed to say I have no idea what was behind the tree, I was so intent of drawing it with some fluidity, driven on by the fading light.
A comment made by my tutor (received too late to put into practice when I drew this) made me wonder if I had chosen the right drawing medium. The comment suggested that softer media used to draw hard/spiky/ sharp-edged objects may produce an interesting juxtaposition of textures and ideas. Here I have used a sharp medium to draw a sharp object. I think by using a softer medium I would have lost detail, which was part of the brief, but I think would have made a more interesting study.