There is something beautiful about an autumnal tree. But we know that. Its contours stand strong, silhouetted against the sky, proud in its nakedness. So its obvious advantages as artistic fodder can be understood. But there is nothing simple about trying to capture it on paper.
In search of my perfect tree I walked down the cliff path scouting trees. Some were still annoyingly leafy others far too complicated. Once I located the perfect tree I took out my charcoal and paper and set about drawing the tree in front of me with the intention of capturing the most awe inspiring winter tree anyone’s ever seen. Really our egos are uncontrollable! Within minutes though my page was smudged with charcoal my eyes stinging and tearful from the cliffside gale force wind and my nose watering from the brilliant English weather. In between trying to blow my nose, wipe my eyes and keep my hand free from frost bite (yes I’m exaggerating but they were numb) the future of my observational sketch did not look good.
I understood that the worst possible thing you can do while trying to draw a tree is to try hard to draw a tree. Its shapes are not the ones you see, the lines and forms are not simple. The more I tried to replicate it exactly the more I failed. There are little nooks, bumps and fissures that make a tree bend and sway in its journey towards the sky.
Its safe to say that the first trip to the cliff didn’t produce much of a tree. After three attempts I finally made something which resembled a tree. As with most things there’s a difference between looking and understanding. You have to keep looking until you finally see the real tree.
2 thoughts on “How not to draw a tree”
I can so relate to all of this, including gale, runny nose and eyes, and ego striving! But in spite of yourself, you drew a beautiful tree, and I think that’s because there was genuine reaching for perfection, in reverence to treedom! Let’s just let love pull us through the nooks and fissures, and ignore dutiful impulses and ego pressures. Because you loved that tree, I now love this drawing, and that’s all that matters.
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Thank you. I think you are right the love of capturing it on paper and the outside world did pull me through in the end. Despite whatever I said I love the outdoors and just getting immersed in capturing it. The fear of getting it wrong can hold us back, becoming cautious can hold us back but making all the wrong marks so you know which ones are the right ones, takes us so much further.
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