Tips for sketching trees

Hello, thought I’d write down a few tips for sketching trees. The biggest difficulty when sketching trees, either from photos and particularly when outdoors, is how to simplify without resorting to stereotype and your drawing becoming cartoon like. You definitely need to avoid attempting to draw every leaf and branch, yet you should aim to provide enough detail to show its shape and character. I chose to draw from a photo of an oak tree, which I have attached. I highly recommend doing this outdoors though, if you get a chance.

You will just need a pencil and paper. I used a 2B most of the time, then switched to a 6B for the later stages.

The photo of an oak tree which I used
Use your pencil and thumb to then compare how many times that feature fits into the length and breadth of the tree. You can mark those onto your drawing if you find that it helps. The point of this is to help you get the right proportions in your drawing. Once you’ve done this, roughly draw the outline of the tree.
As much as possible, focus your attention onto the tree more than your drawing. Allow your hand to follow your gaze, and draw around the main shapes of the tree. Try to observe the gaps between branches, and to draw these shapes too. This is called the negative space. It can be very helpful to half close your eyes when looking at the tree, because this eliminates a lot of detail.
A close up showing details of shading. I added stippling at the ends of the branches, and I kept turning my paper round. This is such a simple thing to do but it ensures that as in nature, the branches in my tree drawing do not all point the same way.
My tree sketch as far as I completed it. The joy of sketching is that…its a sketch… I often think sketches have more life and energy than drawings which have taken a lot longer.
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