In last week’s Time Out for Art, we had some discussion about how to draw a tree without drawing each individual leaf.  This week, Lisa talks about negative space in her post, Timeout for Art: Both Sides of the Line.  So in keeping with this theme, I decided to draw a tree and explain the steps.

Here is the tree I used for my model.  I was not trying to draw a portrait of this tree, just using it as a guide.


Because the tree was in the late afternoon sun as I looked at it, the leaves in the light seemed lighter than the sky (although it doesn’t seem that way in the photo). My first step was to draw in the negative space.  Because I made the edges look “leafy” the mass looks like foliage.

Negative space - everything that is not the tree.

Negative space – everything that is not the tree.

Making a darker value by pressing harder with the pencil, I shaded in the parts of the tree that were clearly in shadow, again paying attention to make the edges a leafy shape.


The final step was to add the trunk and branches.  These are woven into the foliage: behind the foliage in the sunlight, in front of some of the foliage in shadow, and through the “bird holes.”  Tony Van Hasselt always says to leave enough bird holes so that the poor little birdies don’t bump their heads!  Part of the trunk is in sunlight and the shading on that area helps it look round.  Note that the bottom end of the trunk ends in grass or roots.  A shadow on the ground helped anchor the tree.

Sunlit Tree, pencil, 7" x 5"

Sunlit Tree, pencil, 7″ x 5″

If the leaves in the sun had been darker than the sky, I would have made the sky the lightest value, the leaves in the sun a slightly darker value, with the shadowed leaves and the trunk and branches even darker values.