Walking in a woods or forest during late fall and winter is a treat because it allows you to study the trees without their foliage. It is like being in a life drawing class — all these wonderful shapes just waiting for your sketchbook. Start by noticing the overall shape, both up close and from a distance. Notice how branches grow from the trunk and how they taper and get thinner toward the ends. Each new growth is in unison unless it has been disturbed by any number of elements. Each tree is a piece of sculpture. Sketch as many as you can, for when you learn to draw the anatomy of a tree, the fo liage will fall into place.
The sketch below, Woodland Ballerina (charcoal on Japanese paper), earned its title because the top of the tree looked like a ballerina dancing with her hands over her head. It had great design and character. Odd shapes like this make drawing outdoors most enjoyable.
Drawing trees in a mass, simulating a forest, is not as difficult as it sounds. Out of this mass you create a design, a pattern of lights and darks. Look for the shapes of the various trees silhouetted against one another. Be liberal about the sketch —what you want to capture is a reasonable facsimile, not an exact copy.
This sketch shows you, in three easy stages from top to bottom, how to create masses of foliage. Start by sketching the outlines of the trees. Be aware of repetition:
Vary the heights, make some wide, some thin, and so on. Of course, you will have many shapes that are similar, but indentations and the various darks will give them their individual characteristics. Do not be concerned with extra lines; they will get covered as you proceed.
Notice the two shaded areas in the outline sketch. I call them eye markers. They give your eye a spot to return to instead of drifting around looking for something familiar in that busy landscape.
With the outline finished, take a B graphite pencil and lay in a middle value over the complete sketch. You can also begin some shading to contain your various shapes. Keep this light so that if you desire, you can change some shapes by lifting out tone with your kneaded eraser.
To finish your drawing, with 2B and 4B graphite pencils, start giving the shapes more definition: Add darker accents and include some tree trunks or tree shapes, as shown in the bottom third of this sketch. You now have a forest of trees!
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