With the weather being so great outside lately, I took this opportunity to go outside with the kids for two days to practice drawing trees from direct observation. I required them to draw as many as five trees to get into the practice of sketching quickly on the spot and to have extensive practice time drawing the branches and twigs so that they would have visual notes to reference to in their sketchbooks when it was time to work on their final painting. We looked at Brooks Shane Salzwedel’s beautiful pieces of work for this project. We then used India ink and painted the tree silhouettes onto sheets of vellum and layered them on top of one another to create a mysterious mood and mist-like atmosphere.
This is my first time teaching this project and it’s a great lesson for students to hone in both their drawing and painting skills along with thinking about composition, space and depth. We used three sheets of quality vellum, but I think two sheets would also suffice. (I do not recommend regular tracing paper as the India ink will buckle the thing sheets very quickly). Some trees that were painted on the third and last layer did not show up as prominent and so I had the kids paint the same tree in the same location on the second layer to bring the intensity of the silhouette up. Overall, I think the images turned out really great and this is something I’d definitely like to try again next year.