Study of several trees

Project 1 Trees

Exercise 3: Study of several trees

I found this exercise quite daunting initially. After drawing trees individually, it at first seemed fairly simple to draw several trees in a composition…until I started looking at drawing them!

According to the course handbook, “this drawing demonstrates the artist’s abilty to be selective and simplify the scene” (OCA, 2017).

On approaching this exercise, I started thinking of ways of simplifying a scene, particularly when looking at a group of trees. I initially thought I would try to draw in colour, using pastels, as I have been working hard at improving my use of tone in these, however my attempt at sketching a collective of trees outdoors wasn’t very successful. One thing I learnt during this experience is the importance of not rushing…not long after I started drawing this composition, the wind started to pick up and it clouded over…there’s nothing like the risk of rain to make you “panic draw”!


One thing it did highlight for me, however, was the need to look at a technique for drawing foliage, as I realised while sketching that I had no idea how to draw different types of leaves.

I also noted that roughly sketching with colour like this is a very good way of ‘warming up’, something which I noticed when starting my next drawing…

I also considered the perspective from which I was drawing the trees, and wanted to try to draw from a somewhat nearer viewpoint, preferably in amongst the trees, rather than viewing from a distance.

When looking up techniques, I found a very useful book called Drawing Nature by Stanley Maltzman, which gave me an idea to try in this exercise: “Drawing landscapes by lifting out tone” (Maltzman, 1995:126).


I found swapping to charcoal made a huge difference in my drawing style: I was a lot looser with the shading and I felt able to use blending techniques to create the impression of leaves, rather than trying to show individual leaves.

I made the following notes:

  • I used charcoal to set a ‘ground’ on the paper in my sketchbook, and then smudged it so it was a fairly even tone throughout. I then used a combination of willow charcoal and a putty eraser to both build up tone and lift out hightlights to give the impression of the trees in the composition.
  • I used charcoal to shade the foliage, then a putty eraser and my finger to blend and lift out highlights to give the impression of lots of leaves.
  • The light on different parts of the trees was quite difficult, as it didn’t seem to have one particular light source, but the shadows in the bark created a good contrast against the highlights I put in.
  • I think overall I did manage to ‘select and simplify’, but could have almost definitely managed this better. I was happy with the impression I created of the foliage at the base of the trees, as it would have been very easy to keep working at it and over complicate the image.
  • I probably could have gone even darker with this, but the main thing I wanted to work on was using a putty eraser to blend and lift out highlights. I also tried using a normal eraser on the end of a pencil, but I found that this gave the paper an almost waxy coating, which meant that it was impossible to add further shading with charcoal.


Maltzman, S. (1995) Drawing Nature. North Light Books: Ohio.


One thought on “Study of several trees

  1. Pingback: Landscape | Drawing 1: Drawing Skills

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