part three: expanse, project one: trees

exercise three: study of several trees

“Trees are presences in the landscape, but also catchers of space and light. They stand up as markers, dividing up the surface of the land; but they also contain space within them, especially when their branches are bare. Space, as Hockney points out, is difficult to perceive if it has no edges. A bare tree helps you to sense space within the maze of its structure in a complex way. In leaf, on the other hand, a tree functions more as a container of light.” Gayford, M. (2011) A bigger message: Conversations with David Hockney. London: Thames & Hudson


A wash of Pebeo Colorex aquarelle inks: sepia, sanguine and black. Over the top white pastel and coloured pencils and for highlights the same Pebeo white ink. I was very interested in how the trees were white against the background distant trees and mountain but grey as soon as they hit the sky – a flat white nothing of a sky today.


H pencil. I went in way too heavy sketching these trees, as I often do to begin with. When I got back inside I messed about with them – trying to restore their lightness. I rubbed out in all directions quite vigorously, then went back in with the H pencil to bring back the for of the trees. A very quick exercise but I like the result – there is a some sense of  fragmented light and movement and the ‘messiness’ of these trees amid their shrubs.


The same set of trees but just the outlines, letting negative space take the stage as much as positive.

Version 3

In the Alps for a week with no visibility for the past three days. Thankfully on my first day here I did some very quick sketches of trees. This is one that kind of worked. As the mist came down the trees seemed be dissolving in to it. But the trees are now all gone, the Alps performing its favourite magic trick.

I always stop to look at these birches, planted in two lines on each side of a ditch. I used a wash of peat brown ink with white conté pencil (not sure if this is the same as pastel), a dark grey and a dark brown coloured pencil and a tiny bit of HB pencil to sharpen some lines.


I’ve always wanted to have a go at these trees but never known where to start. This sketch is a real measure for me of what I’ve gained on this course so far – maybe not in technique but in a willingness to try and some idea of how to start.

img_2161I’ve added the early stage of the sketch here because I think it also works, I especially like the forward trunk on the right, but I lost the sense of texture on the central tree. Given more time I’d like to mess around with this some more.

Back to this row of birch, from a different angle. These aren’t tall, elegant and straight – how I normally think of birch, but straggly and messy. This is a harsh climate and trees have it tough. And it shows. These are sharp, scratchy, ragged.


From this angle the row is quite sparse, few stand straight, there is a tangle of twigs in the upper half. I’ve used peat and black ink – as a wash and with a nib pen. A touch of white conte crayon though I’m not sure it needs it.
img_2322I think there might be some potential with this technique. The peat ink splotches get across the fuzz of the last of the leaves on a misty morning. The mix of black and peat ink helps with depth – black in the foreground. To improve it I think I need to bring some branches forward (i.e. no overlapping), and perhaps create more density of trees.

I went a bit fast with the skinny twigs but again, I think it could work.




The following trees were done as preparation for Assignment Three but I ended up not using them. There is something I like though, perhaps something that I can develop, so I’m popping them in here for now.

Sketches on top of frottage


A2 size tracing paper,  gesso, HB pencil. Tracing paper on top of plain white paper.

There’s something about this white on white that I like. These trees are so pale and ghostly and this emphasises their ethereal quality.

 Cropped images from above


Laying the tracing paper over an earlier ink sketch. Something I’d like to come back to. Maybe this doesn’t even need tracing paper?

2 thoughts on “part three: expanse, project one: trees

  1. Kimbolina Post author

    Thank you! that is really good to hear, I was a bit doubtful about these sketches, they look a bit neither one thing or the other, but recently I’ve been thinking that I might have another go at the birches…see if I can turn them into something more finished…cheers!



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