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Learn to Draw > How to draw trees

Japanese quinceEven if trees are thickly covered in leaves, their trunks and branches are discernible to some extent. A general impression of a tree in leaf is best caught on paper by following through the branches where they can be seen.

It is their growth that fixes the "likeness," for in a picture of a whole tree it will rarely be possible to reproduce the individual leaf shape of the various species.

To help the student we have illustrated a few schematic renderings of particularly characteristic tree shapes. An understanding of how trees grow, besides preventing elementary mistakes in drawing them, will give the student a better sense of the character of a landscape. A tree, unlike a single flower, is hardly a subject which calls for isolated depiction apart from its surroundings.



apple treeLeaves or conifer needles can be seen only as a mass, best reproduced with a suitable texture. Both leaf shape and density of foliage are characteristic of a tree.

An oak with its notched leaves is very different from a beech with elliptical leaf shapes, but both have dense foliage, in contrast to birch or willow.

It is very interesting to work out a texture suitable for leaves in varying light conditions. Photographs can be traced lightly by the beginner to help him see his way into the problem, although he should always devote most of his time to studies from life.

As with all textures which render a mass of living or organic detail in three dimensions, it is best to use the "trick" of picking out a few areas for exact delineation and merging them into a general toned surface. The beholder unconsciously associates the whole background texture with the part that is detailed.

The bark is another area where texture is important. As with the texture for leaves, it must arise from individual observation, and once worked out is more effective if most of the area is merely indicated by shading rather than filled in pedantically in every corner. However, bark must be carefully observed; a vague, lifeless impression is not sufficient.

mapleAs in politics and everyday life, the greater the understanding, the less the necessity for a display of knowledge. In drawing this is realized by a knowledge of the shapes and a mastery of expression. A quiet, discreet word with the authority of knowledge behind it is always more impressive than a full-scale explanation.

Even if a wood is depicted as a whole it is well worthwhile putting in here and there a carefully observed leaf or patch of bark to give precision to the total effect.

It is this approach which will make the larch wood seem satin soft, or the greenery of a pine wood clearing scrubby and prickly, so that the beholder will almost hear the wind in the tops of the trees, the rustle of birch leaves, or the sighing of the wind in the willows by the stream.

This can come about only if the artist's intention is precise. How this intention is communicated does not matter; it may be in terms of complete abstraction. Whatever the means, they are most effective when they are discreet and simple-they should never tell a tale of laborious toil. It will require a great deal of time for the student to make leaf textures like the Chinese with their thousand-year-old brush technique.

lime tree

After studying trees, there will not be many problems in drawing bushes and shrubs. Many trees exist in the form of bushes, and other true shrubs, except for the difference in the proportion of branches to leaves, are like miniature trees or tree tops. To show the difference, a larger leaf texture is drawn on finer branches, emphasizing the smaller size of the plant.



Next: How to draw flowers

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