Monday, April 1, 2013


Jeff's trees (see previous post) got me thinking about drawing trees. The trees in our mind's eye are like the trees at the Christmas tree farm—perfectly symmetrical and perfectly proportioned, with no odd branches poking out in the wrong places. You know they prune them at the Christmas tree farm so they will look like that, don't you? That's not the way real trees grow!

The weather has been really amazingly beautiful here for the past few days. I had no excuse not to sit out on the front steps and draw a tree. Here is our fledgling apricot tree. It has a few blossoms on it right now. We are crossing our fingers that it will produce some fruit this year. We have been told "you can't grow apricots in Portland."

Trees are great subjects for drawing. Every one is different, but there are some obvious things to observe that a lot of people miss. First of all, I am always surprised to see a drawing of a tree that shows no understanding that the the trunk of a tree is biggest at the ground and tapers as it goes up. Likewise, the individual branches are biggest where they emerge from the trunk or from larger branches and taper out to nothing at their tips. Also, the branches grow upward, reaching for the sky. Here is a nice evergreen in our yard. I always think of it as quite symmetrical, but it is not.

The biggest challenge here was to decide how to render the needles.

Most artists draw trees at one time or another.

Leonardo da Vinci drew this one, with all its knobs and broken branches. His simple suggestion of leaves gives me an idea of how I might deal with foliage in future drawings.

The stark, graphic lines of this drawing by Vincent vanGogh show trees that have been shaped by the weather. This one really demonstrates those tapering, reaching upward qualities in the branches. Neither of these artists were looking for symmetry or perfection in their trees.

Have you tried drawing a tree? Did you learn something about the structure of trees that surprised you? I'd love to see your tree drawings.


  1. Love the of my fav things to draw and paint...

  2. I love drawing trees! Van Gogh drew some amazing trees, such movement within them.

  3. Carlson's book on landscape painting has a great section on general shapes of specific kinds of trees. And then, once that has entered the brain, looking at a specific tree makes them take on personalities (like di Vinci's, which looks very male to me) which are humanoid. But I have seen branches that don't reach for the sun -- I'm trying to remember species, but am coming up blank. I think desert "trees" sometimes shade themselves.

    The London plane trees in Laurelhurst Park are like Ents; truly they tower and watch from some higher plane.