Project 1 – Exercise 2: Larger observational study of an individual tree

For this exercise I decided to go for the willow tree in our garden (see exercise 1). Behind the willow were coniferous trees that make the background quite dark. I found it appealing to work with willow charcoal. First as it seems so natural for me and because I wanted to work out the shapes from the dark background with regular use of the putty rubber.

The willow tree (Salix) is a whole group of different species, in my case it is small goat willow (Salix caprea). At this time of the year there is no foilage, but the small and soft catkins are arriving.The branches are quite thin and long and coming out mostly from the lower trunk. Quite a few branches are bending downwards. These characteristics I want to capture with my drawing.

I started outdoor with mapping out the overall shapes and continued with the trunk and major branches. Than it started to rain and I continued indoor from the garage with a view through the window on the tree (quite in distance although). I kept the middle area of the background dark with some more expressive marks and using the rubber for shaping the branches.

Stefan513593 - project 1 - exercise 2 - progress

Stefan513593 – project 1 – exercise 2 – progress

At the end I marked the newly arriving young catkins on the tree with rubber dots and a few marks with a sharp tip of the charcoal.

Stefan513593 - project 1 - exercise 2 - Willow tree

Stefan513593 – project 1 – exercise 2 – Willow tree

 The next day was so windy and rainy. I took the chance of a dry moment to get outside and draw a birch tree (silver or warty birch, Betula pendula) flowing in the wind. I choose pencil for the more delicate structure of this specific tree. I truly liked the free flowing movement of my drawing hand over the paper following the pendulous movement of the twigs. In the background I kept quickly sketched shapes of the houses and environment around.

Stefan513593 - project 1 - exercise 2 - birch tree

Stefan513593 – project 1 – exercise 2 – birch tree


  • I think I captured the essence of the willow tree as well as the warty birch tree.
  • The way I put the small catkins is good, however they could be brighter. Somehow I could not erase more with the putty rubber. Perhaps, I could have made the background darker instead or using a harder plastic rubber that works harder into the surface.
  • I did not mark the other background trees (coniferous) as to simplify the drawing, but rather have a dark background in the middle and lighter nearly white towards to top (perception of the sky). Thus I simplified it. I think for this exercise it works, I am not sure how I would do it on a larger scale and group of trees. But this is more for the next exercise to learn.
  • Working in pencil felt quite different than drawing in charcoal. Charcoal has a more intimate touch, pencil is rather like a flowing movement over the paper. It is also easier to draw the delicate details on A3 format in pencil. 
  • I could have made more differentiating marks.

Next time:

  • I would like to work with a closer look (zoom in) to capture some more features of texture and patterns of the trunk and branches. So far I left them pretty simple for the sake of dimension as I tried to capture the whole tree.



The other day and after doing the visual research on Vincent van Gogh I was eager to experiment more with felt tip pen and shorter marks. So I went into our garden and took a closer look at a willow tree (different one than before). I decided to go for a few colors: black, grey, dark and light brown. I mapped out first the main shapes, marking the darker areas with brown, leaving the light areas blank. I continued with darkening the shadow areas with black and marking the mid tone areas with light brown. For the background I decided for combined grey/black hatched marks and some scribbled marks to indicate a conifer in the background and some more receding foilage shapes of distant trees in order to create a sens of visual depth. To the left I added some smaller and curled marks for a bush in blossom. I did not want to make clearer marks in the background (compared to the way of Vincent Van Gogh’s mark making) as I wanted a clear focus on the tree trunk. I finished the drawing outside before it got darker – at the end it felt quite chilly and I did not recognize it immediately – so absorbed with the drawing. Something to look after for the next exercises.

Stefan513593 - project 1 - exercise 2 - willow tree

Stefan513593 – project 1 – exercise 2 – willow tree


  • I found the way Vincent van Gogh was making his marks quite helpful. Although, I did not like so much his way of completely marking the whole picture with similar marks. Here I intended to focus more. 
  • To work with felt tip pens is quite different experience than with charcoal or pencils. I think the pen marks and the width are suitable for A3 format. I find it worked well with different markings: parallel shorter lines for tree trunk and branches, hatched and scirbbled marks for conifer, hatching for distant trees (overall shapes), some curved marks for foliage and blossom. 
  • For larger scale I should look perhaps at broader tools, or focus more on mulitple marks to get an equivalent visual effect. 
  • Color can add quite a diiferent visual effect, it makes in this case the main tree more shiny and standing out. The grey works well for receding back plane shapes/marks.

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