Friday, February 5, 2021

Sunset Hill Cherry Tree

2/1/21 Cherry tree, Sunset Hill neighborhood (graphite on Strathmore Bristol vellum, 6" x 8", photo reference)

Although I understand the value of drawing from photos as a classroom learning tool, I don’t care for it under most circumstances. Worst is drawing from a photo of a place or object that I haven’t experienced or seen with my own eyes. I have no connection to it, and it feels like a mechanical copying exercise. That’s why I appreciate that, unlike some classes I’ve taken in which we were required to draw from provided photographs, Kathleen Moore is allowing us to use our own photos of trees if we wish.

In her graphite drawing class this week, we are studying tree trunks and how their forms can be described by emphasizing shadows as they wrap around the trunks. As she described the assignment, I thought immediately of the trees I wanted to draw: the amazingly gnarly ornamental cherries that I sketch every year in the Sunset Hill neighborhood. Their trunks, or perhaps it’s actually their bulging roots, are as thick as thrones, yet fairly short. Then their stout branches suddenly reach toward the sky, filling it with pink blossoms (at least during one spring week). A block on Sunset Hill must have about a dozen of these old cherries.

Although I take lots of photos whenever I’m in the neighborhood to sketch, many were poorly lighted on overcast days or didn’t show shadows that would describe the form. The photo I chose is of a cherry that isn’t quite as dramatic as others, but it has its own regal character, and the lighting was right.

Below is a sketch I made three years ago of some similar trees nearby. Since the blossoms get all the attention during that one week in spring, I appreciated focusing on a trunk and branches during this decidedly non-spring-like week in February.

3/20/18 Sunset Hill cherry trees (on location)


  1. I really enjoy seeing how you are drawing your trees! I find them hard to draw, great idea to use the shadows. As a side note, I love my easel from Ray! It is the perfect size to sit on my desk and it’s really well made. Thanks for the info!

    1. I am really enjoying learning to draw trees better! And I'm happy that the desk easel is working out for you! I use mine every day... probably the most valuable art tool in my studio!


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