Thursday, 21 November 2013

Project Drawing Trees: Study of Several Trees

It was lucky that at in November we had a series of those lovely, bright, crisp winters mornings. Each morning after dropping my son at school I went down to the river where there are lots of trees to sketch. 

In this first sketch, the trees looked very dark in tone against the brightly lit green of the grass. (the second one on the same page I have already talked about when describing the exercise : sketching a single tree)

The sun was low in the sky causing long shadows between brightly illuminated tracts of grass and soil. 

The sun behind the tree branches produced a bright but diffused light as it filtered through the branches and twigs. I was squinting into the sun. This was difficult to represent - here I have tried adding a blob of go ache over graphed and scraping it outwards like rays with my fingers but this hasn't really been successful because the gouache has a warmer tone than the paper.

On the opposite side of the road bridge was a copse of trees with light coloured bark. I was viewing these from the opposite direction with the light behind me so these trees looked light in comparison to the background shapes. They had been plated in a very regular and linear pattern. For some reason this copse reminded me of Paul Nash - maybe due to the height of the trees and their regularity. Click here and here for examples of trees in Nash's work. 

I drew three small sketches of these trees, one colour and two black and white to emphasise the regularity and recession of the vertical forms of the trunks. On balance though, I didn't find this subject as interesting as the view looking into the sun with the long shadows coming towards me. I decided to develop that view further with some colour sketches.

 Here, I was looking at the recession of the line of trees drawing the eye up the page

In this one I found that the a wash of water soluble coloured pencil was good for the luminosity of the grass as being translucent it allowed the white of the paper to shine through.

Here I was experimenting with trying to capture the effect of the sun through the branches. I tried working over coloured pencil with neo-colour water soluble crayon but the effect was less than impressive. I then tried using masking fluid to keep the area of paper white before drawing the trees. i then works outwards from this piece of white paper in white neo-colour to try to represent the fact that the branches look indistinct and irregular when squinting into the sunlight. 

I did an A1 study in charcoal (at home developed from my sketches and reference photos):

In this one I masked out the area for the sun before starting to draw. Once I had drawn in the shapes of the branches i then used a rubber in rapid outward strokes to try to represent the diffused light and indistinctness of the branches. I also used the blubber in the foreground to represent the texture of the fallen leaves on the ground. The result is Ok but the shadows in the foreground don't have quite the drama of my original small sketch.

I then moved on to a colour study:

Here I have used several different media. I have used water-colour washes and splashes of gouache to represent the remaining foliage on some of the trees. The dark silhouetted trees are represented very starkly with black india ink. The sun is gouache and neo-colour crayon.  I have used water soluble coloured pencil for washes in the background on the bright and grass and then I have used the same pencils in the foreground with multiple layers of colours. I think this does give an impression of aerial perspective, depth and distance. Overall I am quite pleased with this although the end result could be considered decorative rather than realistic. It may also be a bit overworked in the foreground.

The one part that I was not happy with, however was the sun filtering through the trees. This was the part of the scene that really attracted me and it was also the most challenging part of the drawing. I didn't think I'd got this down so I continued to experiment in my sketchbook.

First I tried a mixture of water soluble coloured pencil combined with neo-colour sticks dipped in water plus the addition of white gouache.

Then I tried tracing the basic shapes onto a piece of acetate from the screen of my i-pad. Then I turned the acetate over onto a page of my sketchbook and rubbed my hand over it. The resulting image was ghostly and there were some interesting marks produced which I worked into with drawing pen. 

I really liked the marks made this way especially the simplicity of that tingle tree. I tried again with a different photograph. 

This time I accidentally moved the acetate sheet while I was rubbing it so there was nothing resampling a picture on the page but I still liked the marks and thought they would make and interesting background textural element. I worked over this with water soluble coloured pencil and india ink. I tried to draw around the negative spaces between rather than trinng to draw the actual branches: I liked the results of this:

Next I used the acetate itself and used a combination of permanent marker, oil pastel and neo-colour crayon:

I ended up drawing on both sides of the acetate when trying to give the impression of the sun's rays overriding the tree branches. The result was colourful and lively but not really that much better at capturing the effect I was aiming for.

Next I tried working with gouache over india ink trees. I thought the opacity of the gouache might help in overriding the stark shapes of the branches:

This gave some idea of the effect I was aiming for but I think this could be pushed a lot further. Some of the experiments I produced reminded me of some of Mondrian's tree abstractions.  Click here and here to link to images. This was not intentional, but I had been looking at these shortly before I embarked on this project so they obviously were exerting an influence. 
 Other images of trees which I found interesting were in some of Egon Schiele's landscapes link by clicking here and here and here. I only found these after I had done the exercise but I liked them because the lightness of the background seems to alms overwhelm the tree forms which is similar to the effect I was trying to get. 

I have also always liked Gustav Klimt's birch trees, and Fir Forests and this may be what I had subconsciously in mind when I was attracted to the light colour and uniform arrangement of the copse I drew earlier.

I really enjoyed these exercises. Much more so than the townscapes. I'm much more at home with organic forms than straight lines.

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