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Birches, to me, have always seemed to be the elegant ladies of the forest. When depicting birch trees, keep that in mind and use a light hand, especially with silver or paper birch trees. The paper birch, sometimes called the canoe birch, grows much heavier than the silver birch and always seems to be shedding its bark. The bark is very durable: You might find a birch with the insides completely rotted out and the bark in perfect shape. Another feature that appeals to artists is the black spots, which are very apparent on the light-toned bark. These spots indicate where a branch was. Keep these spots simple, and don't place them all over the tree.

Simple Tree Drawings

Think design and leave some out. Plan your drawing so that your birches are placed against a heavily wooded or dark area. The light against dark will display them to their best advantage.

The sketch at left, done in graphite pencil, shows the characteristic branch pattern and the spots where branches were.

The Grand Old Birch (below) was drawn with 2B and 4B graphite pencils on Strathmore bristol. This particular tree is one of the few remaining birch trees planted by Frederick Church. Even though it was large and old, I kept a light touch with a minimum of darks for balance and design, which enabled me to portray its dignity and strength.

Birch DrawingWinter Trees Drawing

Winter Orchard, 20"x30", charcoal on Japanese paper. Collection of Len and Clarihel Gardner.


Apple trees are fabulous characters to draw. They have something to offer the artist at any time of year. In spring, it is blossoms; in summer, foliage; in fall, fruit; and in winter, the wonderful bare trunks and limbs offer their intricate designs.

Winter Orchard (below) was worked from inside my old Scout 4 x4. I had driven by this orchard so many times that the picture I wanted to create was well worked out in my mind. The various odd shapes always appealed to me —

they remind me of soldiers on a parade ground all lined up for inspection. I used a '/4-inch charcoal stick on a piece of handmade Japanese paper. The charcoal was shaped like a chisel: I used the broad side for shading and the opposite side for as fine a line as I might need.

The landscape Cherry Ridge Farm (right) was drawn in the Catskill Mountains; it is a good example of working darks against light and lights against dark. I used 2B and 4B charcoal pencils on 2-ply Strathmore bristol.

Winter Orchard, 20"x30", charcoal on Japanese paper. Collection of Len and Clarihel Gardner.

Cherry Ridge Farm, 11" x 14", 2B and 4B charcoal pencils on 2-ply Strathmore bristol.

Pencil Drawing Trees




Before you begin to draw a tree with foliage, ask yourself some questions. Are you drawing the character of the tree? Is the tree representative of a specific species? Is it to be included in a landscape you are composing?

When you start to sketch your tree, sketch lightly and let it grow from there. Give the foliage a shape that's not too symmetrical but that shows some individuality. Notice here that the trunk is not exactly straight or centered. This was balanced by adding a heavy limb on the left side. Give the foliage a pattern of lights and darks, and suggest some limbs and branches protruding from the foliage. Where you left some sky windows, show some more wood. As a final touch, you can add some trees in the background, making your tree a part of the overall landscape. This tree was drawn with 4B charcoal on Strath-more bristol.

Pencil Shedding Trees

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