Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Assignment: Tree from Imagination


1/23/21 tree from imagination

More than two years ago, I took a Gage class from Kathleen Moore called Drawing Nature. Taught entirely outdoors for five summer weeks, it was a dream come true for an urban sketcher like myself (well, except for the one terrible week that the class had to be postponed because of wildfire smoke, but Kathleen was kind enough to give us a make-up session later). Each session, we met at a different city park and learned to draw different natural elements en plein air.

This quarter, I’m taking another Gage class with Kathleen – Drawing Trees with Graphite. It’s kind of the opposite of that delightful previous experience: Instead of drawing outdoors in warm daylight, I’m stuck inside staring at my Zoom screen. Nonetheless, I already know that Kathleen is an excellent instructor, and so far it is the best online class experience I’ve had. I’ll be telling you more about the course as it progresses, but in this post I wanted to show you the drawing from the first exercise because it applies to something else I’ve been talking about here.

For most of the course, we will be drawing from photo references. However, to shake us loose from whatever symbols or stereotypes for trees that we might have stuck in our brains (such as the flat lollypop shape we drew as children), Kathleen started us off with several guidelines on what real trees look like. Then the assignment was to practice gesture, overlapping branches and the tapering shape of branches by drawing any tree from imagination.

Since this assignment meets my personal objective of developing my skills in drawing from imagination and memory, it was especially enjoyable in a challenging way. This tree was probably as much from memory as imagination, as I’ve sketched a few weeping cypresses in my neighborhood that look similar to this. We were encouraged to note any questions we had for discussion later. My struggle was how to draw the foreshortened branches that are coming toward me to show that the tree is three-dimensional and not a flat cross-section of a stalk of broccoli, as Kathleen describes it. I’ve been aware of this challenge since I studied with Suzanne Brooker four years ago, and I practice it when I can (my most successful attempt was with snow-covered branches, which are easier to see), but it’s still not easy to either see or draw those branches.

I’m sure this issue will come up again in future assignments. I look forward to tackling it again.

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