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Drawing Trees:
Give Mother Nature a Great Big Hug

Drawing trees can be one of the easiest thing to draw. I remember when I was a child I would make a scene by drawing a range of mountains with the sun rising from behind, clouds and a big tree on the side of the sheet. It was easy to draw; just a few lines and a cloud like ball of leaves. Quiet simple, don't you think? Of course as we grow older we're rarely satisfied with childhood renderings that are far from the realism of a tree. Rest assured a very little time and care is sufficient to make a tree look like a tree, not anything else.

So, are you ready to draw a tree that actually looks like a tree? Put away the crayons and throw aside those children’s books on drawing trees; we're about to get busy! Grab your digital camera and snap some pictures of trees, or search trees on the net. When you want to draw real, don't kid yourself and think that you can remember reality. Do yourself a favor and ALWAYS use reference when possible. As you're looking at the pictures of trees, or if you are fortunate enough to go outdoors and get up close and personal, take note of how they all have their own individual characteristics. Imagine when you bring these features into your own drawing, and instead of hearing people say, 'What a beautiful drawing of a tree,' rather they will say, 'What a beautiful drawing of an Oak Tree.' Nothing pleases me more than when my intended audience really grasps what I have tried to recreate on the page. Know what I mean?

I am going to say this again because it is so important. You may draw without using any reference images, but my personal opinion is that to make any kind of authentic drawing, you always need something to draw from, even if you are merely drawing trees.

If possible, actually go outside and find a place place where you are able to sit comfortably for sometime. If you go to a park I suggest finding yourself a nice shaded area to add to your comfort. Drawing Trees is really a great chance to get out of your stuffy home or apartment studio and take in some fresh air.

Find a bench, picnic table or a large rock to sit and keep the materials on. I find that the grass is the best as well as the most comfortable option for me. Choose what works best for you.

So, you are all set to begin drawing trees, but wait a second, I still haven't told you about the materials needed. Considering that you are drawing that particular tree alone, you just need to take sketchpad. If you want to draw on something a little larger then make sure to take your portable drawing board with you to use as your sturdy drawing surface. As for what tool to use, I would recommend a simple HB or graphite pencil. I have found that when drawing trees if you use a carpenter's pencil that your drawing may come out looking more free and expressive than if you use one of the smaller pencils. Again, it is up to you, but please don't be afraid to experiment and find out for yourself what suits you.

Whew, that was a lot of work, but finally we're ready to start drawing trees. The best thing about drawing trees is that you do not have to worry about drawing straight lines. So, enjoy the freedom and let your pencil flow. Let’s assume that you are drawing a standard maple tree.

Begin with the bottom trunk of the tree. Can you see roots of the maple tree popping in and out of the ground? If you do, then be sure to include them; they will add character to your tree and will help to sell your drawing as being more realistic. The little details are what separates a master work from a mediocre one. Draw what you see, not what you think you see.

As you finish up drawing the roots and base of the trunk gradually start to move your line up the trunk, subtly noticing the unique features of the bark. Don't bother drawing in the bark at this point, but rather try to capture the overall shape and uniqueness of the tree as you continue to move upward.

As you begin to move up into the branches it is not necessarily to follow each line of the tree you are looking at exactly here. I tend to focus on the main branches and draw them as they appear, but as for the smaller branches I selectively choose which ones to add and which to leave out of my drawing. Draw the main branches until the leaves begin to appear. Begin to fill the top of the tree with “Y” shapes. This is called “forking”.

To draw the leaves, first have a general idea of shapes the leaves make as they naturally appear in clusters. Draw the outline for the leaves based on that. Give it detail in some places, but also don't be afraid to leave some areas without detail and fill those areas with shadow. This will help add depth when you are drawing trees.

Once you have finished off with the leaves, go back in and add in the bark details that we left out in the beginning. I know what you are thinking. Why leave the bark to last? Let me tell you. When I draw, I tend to rest the side of my hand on the page. If I had put a lot of detail into the trunk at the beginning of the drawing, I would have lost some of that beautiful detail as it would have become smudged by my hand. I would consider this tip a must if you are drawing outside on a hot day, as the little extra sweatiness of your hand will blur your details even more. Happy illustrating!

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