Diane Wright artist - graphite pencil drawings
Diane Wright artist - graphite pencil drawings

How to draw Trees

Tutorial by Diane Wright

part two

Putting this all together

Here are the journal entries of a recent drawing as I step through the process of drawing a tree and the landscape around it.

Iowa Pasture Drawing

Iowa Pasture I took this photo a couple of weeks ago, it was a beautiful Saturday morning. I started this last night and just didn't want to stop! I'm excited because some of my cows really look like cows! Anyway....I lightly laid down a layer of F graphite using my mech pencil on the sky going from darker at the top to lighter at the horizon. The sky on the right side is also much lighter as that is the light source. I then used a chamois and smoothed the sky out. I've been using F hardness throughout the drawing so far. I am going to switch to a B for the trees on the right. Well, got to spend a couple of hours working on the dark trees on the right. I started with a B hardness lead and worked in the forms of the trees. Then switched to a 2B to get the darker shadows.
I really work to keep the trees looking textured. To prevent flat shaded areas I use small strokes and pushing the darks slowly trying to stay aware of where the branch bundles are and the direction of the leaf sprays. I typically work in the shadows (negative space) between the leaves and branches. I then switched to a 3H and worked into the details and the lighter branches. That seemed to work really well.

I pulled some of the branches out of the darkest shadows using Blu-tack and touched my electric eraser to pull out the white specks.There is probably 5 layers just slowly building up my branches. I should have taken scans between each phase...but I still wasn't sure just how to do them so didn't want to stop. Next time I promise I will.
I have started on the right foreground tree. I have laid in all the branches as that really helps keep me on track where the branch bundles need to go. I am going to start with an F hardness less for the leaves on the top of the tree.

Those need to have some definitive distinction to them to register as 'leaves'.I have included a detail shot of how I hold my pencil. (Yeah..I'm a lefty). When I am working on the leaves I hold my pencil with the barrel resting on my little finger and clasped lightly between my index finger and thumb. I also do not rest my arm, wrist on the paper.

Sometimes for balance I will rest the tip of my little finger on the paper. The wrist stays stiff and my pencil strokes are created by using the entire arm. This method takes quite a bit of practice to learn to control your pencil strokes (especially with small areas), however, it gives a great freedom of pencil strokes. For tighter control, I use the pencil in the standard writing hold.Well, that was long winded.....oh I forgot, the grass under the trees I started with a 3H to get a smooth even shade and then introduced an F for darker clumps of grass.It's a bit detailed but I hope this helps....
Well, as promised, I am scanning the foreground tree as I work on it. I have built up a lot of the textured leaves in the top right section. That area is fairly easy because they are thinner and just one layer. I am still using the F lead and have started to shade in the bulkier branches on the bottom of the tree. I am stopping for the night. I get too impatient and want to rush through this section and then I don't get the detail. I have most of the branches and leaves laid in. Now I have to work on balancing the shadows and highlights to 'create form' and hopefully capture that morning sun coming from the right. At the same time working in some details. I will be switching to the 3H to get those lighter gray values.

10/1/05: Continued to work on the trees and grass. I've used B lead on the tree on the left and I'm using 3H on the grass to build up the shadows.

10/3/05: I think I am now finished with this one. I have darken and evened out the trees in the foreground and have darken the grass in the lower right foreground.

"Iowa Pasture"

Tutorial © 2009 Diane Wright