Use the contents below to navigate through each lesson or follow them chronologically.
Lesson One: Drawing Realistic Trees with Pencil (Graphite)
In this lesson, we will explore a systematic approach to drawing realistic trees using pencil. This technique can be applied to any tree species and can even be adapted to draw bushes and shrubbery. By examining specific tree characteristics, we will apply our observations to the drawing process.
While drawing from observation yields the best results, this method can also be used to draw trees from imagination.
For this example, we will use graphite pencils to draw the tree. The choice of pencils depends on the pressure you typically apply to the pencil. To achieve a full range of values in the drawing, a variety of graphite grades is necessary.
- 2H Pencil: Used for establishing shapes (be careful not to apply too much pressure to avoid indentations on the paper surface).
- HB Pencil: Used to develop mid-tones and lighter values.
- 4B Pencil (or equivalent): Used to create darker values.
The choice of paper texture is crucial as it affects the drawing’s final appearance. In this demonstration, Bristol paper with a vellum surface is used. This paper is smooth, yet it has enough texture to accept multiple layers of graphite.
Some artists prefer using paper with more texture, which aids in depicting leaf texture. Charcoal paper is an excellent alternative for those who want to emphasize surface texture.
Keys to Drawing Trees
Drawing a tree can seem overwhelming due to the intricate details. However, to draw one accurately, we need not focus on every detail. Instead, we will break down the tree into three simple aspects and develop each one systematically.
Step 1 – Find the Shape(s)
We will start by defining the overall shape of the tree. Using a light touch with the 2H pencil, concentrate on the outer contours.
Once the outer contours are defined, we will identify smaller shapes within the tree’s canopy. These shapes represent clusters of leaves found at the end of the branches.
Step 2 – Develop the Texture
Using the defined shapes as a guide, we will start creating the texture of the leaves. Patience is key in this process. Take your time and maintain consistency. Rather than drawing every leaf, we will focus on creating the illusion of leaf clusters. Each cluster should be treated as an individual form, with highlights and shadows.
Organic lines can be used to mimic leaf texture. These lines may overlap and form small squiggles. Remember to maintain an irregular edge along the outer contours of the tree and leave small open spaces within the canopy.
Step 3 – Develop the Value
The illusion of texture is not only created by the marks we make but also by the development of values. Value refers to the darkness or lightness of a color. It communicates not only the light within the scene but also the form and texture of the object. Our goal is to create a full range of values, including the darkest darks and the lightest lights.
Take Your Time: Drawing realistic trees requires patience and persistence. Avoid rushing through the process and embrace the opportunity for improvement through focused practice.
Creating an Illusion: Drawing is an art of creating illusions. Focus on capturing shapes, textures, and values rather than attempting a perfect replica of what you see. The goal is to communicate the essence of the subject.
Embrace Deviations: When drawing from observation, deviations from the original reference are inevitable. Instead of striving for perfection, allow yourself the freedom to interpret and add your unique perspective to the drawing.
Now that you have a structured approach to drawing trees, grab your pencil and start capturing the beauty of nature on paper. Happy drawing!