A change in the weather from our previous trip meant that we did not have to seek shade so we could sit in the open on a bench. We had three projects to complete: a weeping willow, a sapling and a massive conifer, all offering differing challenges and shapes. 

The weeping willow we sketched as thumbnails first so we could practice scaling the shape down to a small size. We used pencils to complete sketches of the tree. These took some time, as the tree is enormous and therefore there are numerous light and dark values to add to make the willow look 3D and come alive on the paper. When out in the open the change in light can cause quite a lot of problems, especially if clouds are on the move, suddenly the cast shadows you were drawing have moved so completing a preliminary thumb nail sketch is an extremely practical process. I used the thumb nail as my reference, as I was quite confident the shape and size was correct. I did some pencil measuring for width and height before I started sketching.  

We then drew a sapling tree with not even half as much age to its name as the willow. This was almost like first drawing an adult (the willow) and then a gangly teenager (the sapling). I did a lot of pencil measuring before I started this and also looked at it from all angles. As there is less on a sapling, leaf and age wise, there is more of a challenge. The leaves were a good shape to work to and also the colour of the trunk and leaves were much lighter in colour than the elderly and older trees. 

Our final project was a massive conifer tree. We had to ensure that this did not turn into a lollypop tree. Therefore light and dark was a key part of this project. The optical illusion of these conifers is really interesting: the branches go upwards but sometimes the natural instinct is to draw them downwards.  

When I got home to my studio and studied my drawings I decided the one to work from was of the sapling. This gave me a great challenge in watercolours, as I had a light coloured tree that had lots of dark coloured trees on the horizon line in the distance and some distant buildings. I also used fine line pens to draw in the buildings on the horizon line. When painting trees with lots of leaves: if the leaves have a very definite shape, draw a few of them in places where a focal point would be placed on the paper. Paint those in carefully and then the rest of the leaves use dab brushstrokes. Otherwise, painting a full bloom tree could take an awful long time! 

I used a wide range of greens, the darkest one of which almost looks black and the lightest almost yellow. I mixed them from a base of dark green (only because I had a lot of that colour).  

The key point of painting a tree: leave lots of air spaces, if you start blocking in all the leaves you will end up with a 2D illusion.  

The inspiration in Raphael’s Park is endless, any artist would benefit from sitting in the park for a few hours and using all the wonderful natural surroundings to create some pieces of art. 

If you would like to join us on one of our sketching outings please email me for details.