Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Light Against Dark


7/9/21 Volunteer Park
Volunteer Park has many appealing attractions, including the Seattle Asian Art Museum, Conservatory and historic water tower, all of which I’ve sketched many times. The one thing I haven’t sketched there much is its trees – and the park has some of the largest and oldest trees in the city. Therefore, I was happy that instructor Kristin Frost chose Volunteer Park as the location for our Week 2 class in drawing trees.

Kristin began class with a demo on different ways to make marks to evoke a variety of foliage textures. She also showed us how she would approach simplifying masses of foliage and layers of trees into a manageable composition.

I tried various compositions for the same scene by changing the thumbnail.
A subject that is continually challenging for me is a sunlit tree in the foreground with a dark background, so I thought I’d tackle that. I looked around and found several examples. In retrospect, I wished I had chosen an easier foreground tree than this fir tree’s feathery branches, but Kristin was very helpful in giving me tips. For example, toward the end when I was refining details, I was having difficulty getting those branches to stand out distinctly. She suggested that I simply sharpen the soft 5B pencil I was using to a fresh point and darken the background only around the pointy parts of the branches. Just sharpening the pencil made a huge difference.

Although I am using a larger sketchbook for class than I typically would for urban sketching, I ended up making this drawing at roughly my usual A5 size because I’m comfortable with it. During the group critique, I noticed that most of my classmates had made much larger drawings. It occurred to me that I should probably push myself to go larger next time, since that would be new territory for me.

Here's a photo of the scene:
the challenge of organizing a messy mass of foliage!
Even so, I’m happy with what I accomplished at this size, and I don’t think I would have been able to finish a drawing from life with this level of value depth in the same length of time (about two hours) if I had chosen a larger composition. When I mentioned my ambivalence, Kristin pointed out that because my values are strong, it would be easy to make a new drawing at any size I choose by using the small one as a study. She said that a strong value study done from life contains more information and is therefore more useful than a photo of the same scene. Good to know!


  1. Your fir tree really stands out well. This class sounds like it is a great one. Keep up the good work!


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