Expanse. Part 3. Project 1. Trees. Exercise 3. Study of several trees.

Spent one or two hours on this exercise. Work in a wood or study a group of trees. You might work in a variety of media… Look for an interest point, i.e. a path to develop perspective, or strong contrasts of light and shade, or the dynamic form of the trees themselves. A bank or rocks could form part of your study.

Try to work in broad tonal areas, look for strong light or dark or intense areas of colour, especially in autumn, or brightness of moss in winter. Tree trunks will dominate in either dark or pale tones.

Your drawing should suggest form and mass, don’t get stuck with detail. Use watercolour washes to map out tones. Leaf litter in autumn make vivid colours….. If woodlands and trees overwhelm you then ‘zoom in’ to help focus on an area of interest.


I made many sketches and drawings of woodlands near where I live. Here they are, these were from my woodland walk, as I sketched many trees and path ways which I though would help me with this exercise too.

I also made sketches of a group of trees, covering two pages in my sketch book. I concentrated on their shape rather than the backgrounds.


Whilst in the wood I made some paintings in watercolour and pencil of some other views of the wood. I wanted to show the light coming from behind the trees, making them very dark. I think the watercolour pencil on the textured watercolour paper gave the trunks some textures.

Trees in watercolour pencils and pens
Trees in watercolours

As I moved around the wood, I decided to quickly draw and paint this view of a some trees with a strong area of light shining through the woodland.

Watercolour and ink on paper.

As my time in the wood shows it was a day of strong light. All my paintings and drawings show the trees very dark with light behind them.

Q. What techniques did you use to distinguish one species from another?

A. I only used pencil, watercolours and pens to draw the trees with. The thin black pens emphasized some of the slimmer trees. I painted by ‘dropping in’ wet into wet watercolour paints to make the feeling of foliage shapes.

Q.How did you convey the mass of foliage and space between?

A. I either scribbled or painted light washes to convey the bushes. I left the white of paper or painted with lighter washes to show the gaps of light,

Q. How did you handle the light on the different parts of the tree?

A. When I was drawing I left spaces or gaps in my mark making lines where the light was on the trunks.

Q. Did you manage to select and simplify?

A. Yes I did, as there was a lot of extra foliage and branches, I decided to concentrate on the shape of the trees and the light.

I think I could have drawn in more detail and with more energy. The woods I chose to walk through, have not turned into these wonderful autumn colours yet. So another painting to convey these would be a way to go.

However I really like my loose blue watercolor painting of the trees. The paint effect made the trees look as if they were moving and hence making the light bounce around too.

Back at home I decided to experiment with mono printing. I rolled out some ink onto a glass sheet, and placed my paper face down on the ink and drew in pencil on the back a quick sketch of my woodland scene.

This first print took on too much ink, but left a small light area on one of the trees, which is wonderful. Here it is.

Print No 1. Mono print on paper

This is the second print which is clearer. You can see that I used scribbling to describe the middle ground foliage and kept the trees blank without texture, except the ink pressure has made ‘textures’ on the surfaces.

Print No 2. Mono print on paper.



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