Etiqueta: Trees

Part 3 Expanse

Project 1 Trees – Research and ideas

Trees don’t follow the laws of perspective, or don’t seem to, because they are so complicated, with lines going in so many directions

David Hockney. A bigger message Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford. Thames & Hudson 2011.

When I think about drawing trees, I immediately think of Hockney’s paintings and studies for his Woldgate Wood series, Constable’s sketches and studies of trees, the trees of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot and after recently reading about the work of Frank Auerbach, I am also inspired by his rapid/expressive drawings of trees:

Auerbach tree on Primrose hill
Frank Auerbach, Tree on Primrose Hill

Other ideas on the extreme side – I would include the wonderfully expressive paintings and drawings of trees by  Joan Mitchell:

Tree II, 1992. Color lithograph © Estate of Joan Mitchell.

In reading Martin Gayford’s book on conversations with Hockney, I was interested on a section about his methods used for the painting of Woldgate Woods – painting with memory and photographs. I have also painted from memory in the past and it is an excellent way to include emotions/feelings into a painting without getting too distracted by technique and details. In the book, they discuss how Hockney uses his memory to paint. Constant drawing practice plays a large part and helps to train oneself to edit out parts of what you see – simplifying and experimenting with media. This practice makes it easier to use the memory to recall images and draw them in a more personal, emotional way.

David Hockney. Woldgate Woods 2006. Oil on canvas

Hockney recalls a story about the French philosopher Henri Bergson. He was sitting in a cafe opposite Rouen Cathedral, and he said that the only way you can see the cathedral properly from here is to get up, walk right round it, and then come back here….The point is (says Hockney) that you would then have a memory that you were looking at…..Of course if the subject is in front of you, it’s up to you, it’s the memory of a second ago, five seconds ago, a minute ago. Each memory will be different in quality, but if you train yourself, if you make notes in your head, you can use them very well.  

For drawing inspiration, I looked at the drawings of Constable and Corot:

Corot willows-and-white-poplars-1872
Corot, Willows and white poplars, 1872

Constable’s elm trees drawing is a mamouth work of a stature in keeping with these giant elms, whilst Corot’s minimal and accurate use of both line and shading are something that I want to master in my sketches/drawings.

Ref. Martin Gayford/David Hockney. A bigger message Conversations with David Hockney. Thames and Hudson 2011

Part 3 Expanse

Project 1 – Trees

I found drawing trees a challenge – with so many variations, heights, forms and colours. It was also difficult to select suitable trees for drawing. In the end I sketched trees from afar, nearby and at a suitable distance according to the exercise requirements. I did not always follow the exercises exactly.

As a warm up I just went out sketching:



and then a small sketch using coloured pencils:


In Chile there is a famous native tree – the Araucaria.  It is a tall pine tree with distinctive form; not quite sure if I have captured it in these small sketches in my pocket sketchbook:

Exercise 1 Sketching individual trees

For this exercise I chose a fir tree not far from my house. It was drawn using a small piece of compressed charcoal on a bright overcast day:


This was a huge towering tree with spreading branches – very beautiful. I was interested in capturing the overall form and movement of the tree with its large branches … also trying to imitate the movement and line of the individual branches.

I then chose another evergreen fir tree.


This time I used indian ink, white chalk and pencil.  I felt that this was a brave experiment that did not quite work. This was a dense tree – a bit like the large cedar trees found in graveyards in England.

I have since walked past this tree several times and the overall form is very like the drawing above – so maybe this was more succesful than I at first thought.

Exercise 2 Large observational study of an individual tree

The large tree drawn above in ink was my subject for this study.  I worked in an A3 sketchpad with large 2B and 6B pencils and gradually built up layers and textures:


The tree trunk and branches reminded me of an elephant. I do not think that I have ever drawn anything like this before and had to find my feet regarding the shading and textures.

The modelling of the tree trunk was not successful but some parts of the texturing worked well. The upper part of the tree put most of the trunk in shade and there was an even light all around the tree, so difficult to model without any form of directional lighting – perhaps it would have been better early in the morning or late in the afternoon on a sunny day. It was cold and overcast when I was sketching – not ideal!

During the sketching sessions on the same day, I also made a colour study of the fir tree using oil pastels – I love the effects and colours that you can achieve using oil pastels and was very happy with this study although it could be judged as quite flat!


I must remember next time to take some baby wipes with me to clean my hands during sketching – you can see the thumbprints on the page due to dirty hands after drawing with charcoal.

After receiving my feedback from Part 2, I decided to make a further observational study of an individual tree to improve the tonal range in a drawing and render the form more accurately:

Charcoal on A2 heavy mixed media paper

This was a very large Eucalytus tree with beautiful exposed roots and dark overhanging branches. I believe that this was a much improved study and I increased the tonal range of the drawing whilst maintaining expressive use of line.

Exercise 3 Study of several trees

Watercolour and pencil on A2 heavy mixed media paper

This was a study of a group of very tall Eucalyptus trees – the day was a very bright sunny day, late morning so the sun was already quite high. I was drawing for at least one hour and the sun was moving fast. The left hand side of the tree trunks had a bright white patch which I did not capture – I therefore used some yellow to give the trees a glow.

I would like to go back and make a sketch similar to the Corot drawings in my recent research, as this is a picknic area and I could include people in the sketch to give a better sense of scale.

This was a group of similar trees so I was unable on this occasion to distinguish one species of tree from another. The mass of foliage included very bright patches on the LHS and very dark parts on the RHS of each tree. I used a grey base colour for the trunks and added yellow to the LHS of the truck to indicate the sun hitting them. I then relied on line and a little shading using pencil to render form…not very effective. I managed to simplify the shadows on the ground, the background, the masses of foliage and a sense of depth by fading out one of the trees.

To improve this drawing further  I could have observed better the position/form of the trees to give a greater depth, I should have used a greater range of tones in the tree trunks without resorting to line/pencil shading, and I could have been more delicate with the foliage by using delicate lines in support of the green washes. A mountain, horizon or other feature in the background together with a few figures would have given greater depth and scale to the drawing.

Afternoon visit to Chartwell

Afternoon visit to Chartwell

During my business trip to Europe, I had the chance to visit my family in the UK and on one afternoon Chartwell, the home of Winston Churchill. The visit to Chartwell included a walk around the grounds, his art studio and house. Winston painted many scenes of his estate (not really to my taste) and there are strategic chairs placed in positions from which he may have painted – you can just imagine him having his paints brought to him along with an ample supply of tea, sandwiches and cigars! I sat in one of the chairs to have my photo taken and in that time made an extremely quick sketch.

The most interesting part of the visit were the grounds and scenery – the views are stunning and unspoilt by road, rail, buildings etc – from the estate you cannot see anything but green countryside.

For anyone on Part 3 Expanse a visit to Chartwell has a wealth of material: varied landscape, woodland and beautifully manicured ‘English’ country garden borders. For those who need trees this estate is a treasure trove.

I will use some of these images to complement local trees near my home in Chile.

At the end of the tour in the House, there was a wonderful portrait of Churchill and his wife by William Nicholson (1872-1949) entitled:

Study for ‘Breakfast at Chartwell II’ (Sir Winston Churchill, 1874–1965, and Clementine Ogilvy Hozier, 1885–1977, Lady Churchill, in the Dining Room at Chartwell, with Their Cat ‘Tango’) c.1932/1933

Link to image:

I liked the informal nature of the study and all the ‘normal’ items on the table (except the cat of course!) – Churchill is almost a siluette but unmistakenly him.

In the link you can also see a couple of his paintings.