Sketching an individual tree (2) birches


Silver birch branches (drawing pen and pencil over ink wash)

We had no electricity from 8am to 4pm  today due to maintenance of the power lines – and also no water due to a fault. This made work a little challenging so as it  was warmer and lighter outside,  I grabbed the opportunity to sketch  in our garden.

Silver birch
They are such elegant trees. In the wind their light, pendulous twig branches sway like tresses of hair.  Our three silver birches have lost a lot of their hair this winter because of the storms but they are still lovely – and still standing. The trunks are bent in the direction of the prevailing wind. Sunlight catches the white bark. The lower branches have dark bark, but the upper ones are white so that when you look up you see a glimmering treetop. The lower trunk has fine horizontal bands which are very distinctive, these become less frequent higher up.

Silver birch - overall shape

Silver birch – overall shape

I had trouble fitting the full height of the tree into my sketchbook but the quick sketch (left) shows the overall shape and proportions better.

Silver birch detail (drawing pen and pencil)

Silver birch detail (drawing pen and pencil)

The silver birch has a myriad of thin pendulous twig branches (reddy brown in colour) that hang down elegantly and are constantly on the move. They have little catkins at the end which seem to hang mostly in pairs.

Twig detail

Twig detail








Downy birch

Downy birch - Conte pencils.

Downy birch – Conte pencils.

The downy birch is very like the silver birch in terms of its trunk and  main branches but the numerous twig like branches are shorter and grow in a more upright way giving it an altogether different kind of hair cut. I sketched this downy birch from photographs taken a couple of weekends ago in the King’s Forest (Thetford). We stumbled upon Queen Mary’s Avenue which is a beautiful wide grassy lane planted  on either side with mature pines, birches and beeches.

Downy birch - treetop

Downy birch – treetop (Conte pencils and chalk)

It is a fantastic place, especially when the sun is shining and making the birch trunks glow – I added some chalk to the trunks to try to capture this but not entirely successfully, even with an ink wash background. A coloured paper might be better.

The downy birch has yellow gold twigs unlike the silver birch which is more of a redhead.


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