Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Trees Again – But Not a Do-Over


7/1/22 Volunteer Park (Mitsubishi Hi-Uni graphite on Strathmore 400 Bristol smooth)

After more than a year of nothing but Zoom classes, Kristin Frost’s plein air drawing class last summer was my first Gage Academy class since the pandemic began – and what a breath of fresh air (literally) it was! It was joyous – thrilling even – to be joining other students in person. Beyond that pleasure, it was simply a terrific class learning to draw trees with graphite. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to take it again.

It’s not a do-over for me, though. With students of all levels enrolled, I knew it wouldn’t be a rerun. Observing Kristin’s teaching style last year showed me that she gives feedback appropriate to each student’s level of experience. In addition to my continual interest in improving my rendering skills, I’m especially interested in composition now, so those are my personal objectives during this five-week course.

In Week 1 when we met at Volunteer Park, we were to focus on an individual tree. Although I didn’t plan it, the tree I chose became more beautifully illuminated as the afternoon wore on – what luck! I loved the ground shadows, too. (But when it’s 73 degrees and sunny at one of Seattle’s best tree parks, I could be happy drawing a slug.)

Most of the upper part of the tree was illuminated. One way to show this is to darken the background, where a few darker trees stood, but the bright, bare sky was also in the background. I wanted to retain the “portrait” look of the single tree without drawing the trees behind it, but I wasn’t sure how else to show the lit top without drawing an outline. Kristen had suggested a faint, broken line, so I tried that, and I like this result.

(Not shown: The thumbnail we were required to make first. As I now well know, that step is essential! I think I would have done it even if she hadn’t required it. What a 180 turnaround for me!)

A simple class kit

Assembling the supplies for this class was a snap – a drawing pad, graphite pencils in a handful of grades, blending stumps, an eraser and a sharpener. The item that took the longest to choose? The pencil case! I had more than 20 to consider! I ended up using a reliable Global Art book-style case, which was also a favorite when I last took a colored pencil class. (I reviewed it at the Well-Appointed Desk.)

One other critical piece in my supplies this time was a new chair! Last year, I used my ultra-portable, ultra-tiny Daiso folding stool, which is fine for a half-hour sketch (and the maximum weight and size I can tolerate schlepping around at symposiums and such). In a three-hour class, however, it’s less than ideal. I’ve been shopping for something else, and I found one that’s a bit larger but a hundred times more comfortable. Review coming up soon.


  1. I like the idea of the faint, broken line for the lit top of the tree. It worked well. I'm waiting to see what kind of chair you got.

  2. Really beautiful tree. Great idea to have a broken line portray the sunlit top.

    Cathy Inzer

    1. Thank you, Cathy! I like the broken line idea, too!


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