Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Value Studies – Tree


5/15/21 ArtGraf water-soluble carbon on Lenox Cotton
I’ve used this little tree next door many times for various studies over the years, mainly because it’s conveniently viewed from our upstairs deck. In the late afternoon, though, on bright, sunny days, I love the fringe of backlighting around it.

You saw the monochrome one recently in my review of Stonehenge papers. It was the easiest to execute because I could focus on the values, and the ArtGraf carbon pencil was a speedy way to achieve super-rich darks. Of the three studies shown here, I think it’s the best rendering of the tree’s volume in that I managed to capture the forward-facing branches.

On another bright day at around the same time of the afternoon, I tried it in color (below). I think I captured the fringe of light that I like so much, but I lost the tree’s volume. Choosing Stonehenge Hotpress for a tree study was frustrating. Although the soft Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils enjoyed the smooth surface, I had to work harder than I wanted to for the tree’s texture, and I think I lost most of that, too.

5/22/21 Luminance on Stonehenge Hotpress

5/23/21 Museum Aquarelle on Stillman & Birn Beta

The next day was overcast, so I took on the challenge of trying to see values in the diffused light (at left). Once in a while the sun peeked out briefly. I used those moments to define the values, but it was still difficult. A strong wind was blowing, making the deck uncomfortable, so I used my tried-and-true Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles, which are so much faster than traditional colored pencils. Stillman & Birn Beta’s cold press surface was a good choice; it has just enough tooth to give foliage texture easily. Without textured paper, it’s hard to retain the sparkle of light that comes through this tree. Volume, however, is so-so.

Even when (or maybe because) I sketch the same tree multiple times, every study teaches me something. Now that I’ve been sketching for nearly a decade, it doesn’t mean I necessarily draw everything better or avoid mistakes more often. I think experience just makes it easier to analyze what I could do better next time.


  1. My favorite is the first one done with the ArtGraf carbon. It shows the solidness of the tree the best!

    1. That's my favorite, too, for the same reason! So much harder to do in color!


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