Exercise: Study of several trees

Danescombe mark 2 - Conte pencils and crayons on Bockingford paper (A3)

Danescombe Valley, Cornwall  Conte pencils and crayons on Bockingford paper (A3) Second picture


Reworked a little to add more depth and contrast for assessment.











Study of several trees – further work on my drawing
As I would like to include this drawing for assessment I went back (March 2015) to make some changes to enhance the contrast between the light and dark areas (see right hand image) and try to give a better sense of foreground, middle and background. It is improved I believe and also I realise I am now more confident with the materials.


I chose to draw trees at the site of the old mine works at Danescombe in Cotehele Wood in Cornwall. The scene is deep inside a wooded valley with light  filtering through the canopy above. It was early summer last year and everything was glistening from the recent rain and glowing  vivid green. We stayed in the engine house of Danescombe mine and my overriding memory is of glowing green light and moss.

Although there is moss and lichen in abundance, this is not really an ancient forest as in the days of the mine the trees were cleared and cut in a saw mill powered by the stream pictured to make the pit props. I worked from a photograph I took last year.

Danescombe Valley, Cornwall (A3) - Conte pencils and crayons. First attempt on cartridge paper

Danescombe Valley, Cornwall (A3) – Conte pencils and crayons. First attempt on cartridge paper

These are my first ‘serious’ attempts at using Conté pencils and crayons and although I feel this was an appropriate medium, I had a bit of trouble blending and lost detail that I had painstakingly applied. For example, in my first picture the trunks of the coppiced trees were glowing green at the edges from the light above and I’ve lost some of this. I’ve  captured the light but it is not quite as vivid as I would like. In my first picture I used a slightly textured cartridge paper and it was quite difficult to work the pastel into the grain. I enjoy this medium but have not by any means mastered it.

In the first picture I accidentally used white oil pastel initially (how did that get in my box?!) and this made it even more difficult to blend the Conté crayons and left some  blotchy marks in the centre of the image. Not a combination of media I would choose!

For my second attempt I used Bockingford paper and the deeper grain worked better with the pastels. I tried to bring in more foreground detail, although I think I may now have a little too much foreground. The additional practice at using pastels was worthwhile as my technique improved.

sketchbook-prep-several trees

Initial sketchbook picture, which I simplified to cut out the detail on the right so the focus was on the stream.

Both pictures have a reasonable  composition and sense of depth. I found detail hard to retain when blending the colours. I’m happy with the colour palette which was limited but representative of the scene. I’m not convinced my babbling brook is immediately recognisable as such but I feel I’ve done a fair job of simplifying a complex  image by capturing broader areas of colour. I certainly learnt a lot about using pastels.

More sketchbook studies of several trees

Queen Mary's Walk, King's Forest, Thetfor - Conte pencils (sketchbook)

Queen Mary’s Walk, King’s Forest, Thetford – Conte pencils (sketchbook)

Pine trees with a backdrop of silver birches. This long avenue of trees (beeches, birches and pines) was planted in 1935 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary in 1935

The late morning light was very bright and bouncing off the tree trunks. It is a beautiful spot where you could happily linger for hours.

Costa Brava trees - Conte pencils and crayons

Costa Brava trees – Conte pencils and crayons (sketchbook)

Costa Brava pine trees – looking down to the sea at trees growing out of the cliff face. Lots of sharp contrast between shadow and light and some of the trunks glowing white. From photograph taken in 2011. I like the abstract nature of this… have overdone the black a bit but there was a lot of shadow.



Costa Brava trees - cropped to square.

Costa Brava trees – cropped to square.

It is a much more successful sketch when cropped to square as it balances out the areas of light and shadow. Now I’m wondering if this isn’t the picture that I should have developed… It is quite difficult to stop drawing trees but deadlines are looming!


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