As a young child, you likely learned to draw a tree by using a few circular shapes to symbolize masses of leaves supported by a narrow rectangle to depict the tree’s trunk. And if you were in a creative mood that day, a few angled lines could be added to suggest its branches.
Of course drawings of trees could vary widely depending on where you lived as a kid. Tall triangles symbolized towering conifers. Or a long and curved line topped with serrated, curved shapes became a palm tree. It was easy and fun to draw a tree.
Unfortunately, the joy of drawing trees—and everything else—is abandoned by many kids as they become immersed in the rigors of writing, math, and reading. Most people leave childhood drawing behind to pursue life’s more grown-up callings. But not me.
Drawing became my livelihood and a continuous source of joy. And as an adult, trees have remained one of my core subjects of interest. Various species of trees have been tapping their roots in the pages of my sketchbooks for several decades. It is like having my own forest of drawn memories bound together.
Following are some of my sketched moments with trees…
One afternoon, while rearranging the studio between sessions with students, I picked up a vase of flowers. Holding the vase in my hands, I slowly rotated it to notice a cluster of freshly cut tree leaves embracing a curved carnation stem—they seemed to be performing a graceful dance together. Fascinating drawing subjects have a way of finding you when you least expect it.
Even though I had a busy schedule that day, this shock of elegant beauty engaged my curiosity. I set the vase aside and attempted to move on to other tasks. But glances of vibrant colors and alluring rhythms of details brought me back to the flower arrangement, forcing me to consider drawing it later that evening. Continue reading Drawing is Like Crossing a River→
As a kid, I remember squirming with anticipation during the climatic moment of truth in vintage Clint Eastwood westerns. The camera zooms to a closeup of Eastwood’s eyes, followed by unbearable tension as the day of reckoning swelters beneath a desert sun. With eyes narrowly focused, the legendary Clint Squint always spelled doom for the bad guys. We sketchers can take a cue from Eastwood’s famous squinting technique in learning to draw more accurately from observation. Continue reading When the Drawing Gets Tough—Squint!→
Showing off our finished drawings to family and friends can be gratifying. Enthusiastic viewers appreciate your techniques and may even understand that you spend many hours practicing to improve your skills. But hidden to their eyes is your dedication to doing studies—a most misunderstood aspect of learning to draw from observation.
In the tradition of the Renaissance artists, Naomi (shown above) learns the importance of studying as she practices using the system of perspective drawing.
Early Egyptian, Greek, and Italian Renaissance artists and artisans used drawing to study their subjects. They made countless study sketches to solve problems, prepare artwork, and map out elaborate architecture.
By doing study sketches, students at the Scribbles Institute learn to block in dominant shapes of their subject, sketch accurate contours, and confidently work their way toward drawing final compositions.
Autumn brings us Halloween, the time of year when our thoughts are haunted by ghosts and goblins. But for those of us who are learning to draw, the zombies of perfectionism can be the most terrifying creatures—every day of the year! Continue reading Attack of the Zombies of Perfectionism→
Waking up to a misty Payne’s Gray sky that engulfs coastal Santa Cruz is common at this time of year. On this particular Saturday morning, I was hoping for summer sunshine that would keep our paper dry and help us to see and sketch crucial shadows.
Anticipation ran high as I packed my sketchbook and a lunch. A small tribe of my most ardent studio students was gathering for a workshop at one of my favorite outdoor sketching locations, Wilder Ranch State Park. Continue reading Sketches In Paradise→
Every time we open our urban and field sketchbooks to draw, we’re faced with the same challenge—to swiftly transform flat 2D pages into believable 3D environments the viewer can walk into. Continue reading Walking Into a Sketch→
In the opening scene of the classic comedy What About Bob, we see a perplexed Bob Wiley, played by Bill Murray, contemplating his fate of stepping outside the door of his apartment and onto the streets of New York. He quickly becomes overwhelmed by his fears of just about everything and everyone in the world.
As Bob finally meets with Dr. Leo Marvin, played by Richard Dreyfuss, he sits in awe of the prominent psychiatrist’s suggestion to start with reasonable goals. “Don’t think of everything you have to do to get out of the building, Bob. Think about what you have to do to get out of this room,” says Dr. Marvin as he hands Bob a copy of his book Baby Steps. Comedic escapades ensue as Bob applies life-transforming small habits to the bigger complexities of life.
If it’s difficult for you to set—and maintain—your goal to draw regularly, try the advice given to Bob and take baby steps toward an easy and satisfying drawing habit.