Our slide show illustrates the stages of our approach to drawing the branch of a tree in charcoal and chalk.
When using charcoal and chalk as a medium, you need to use an intermediate shade of paper to act as a mid-tone between the dark of the charcoal and the light of the chalk.
Artists study organic forms like branches, roots, leaves, pine cones, seed pods, flowers, fruit, shells, feathers, insects etc. as their natural structures teach us about the development of shapes: their spatial relationships, symmetry and asymmetry, positive and negative forms, rhythmic movement, and the visual elements (line, shape, tone, color, pattern, texture and form).
When drawing from nature you not only discover the artistic possibilities that exist in your subject matter, but you also learn about yourself. It is a therapeutic process: a basic form of meditation that compels you to focus only on what is present and teaches you to see with a concentration that reveals the unseen beauty of nature that we often overlook in our busy world.
When you analyse the line of a branch you can see that it is not a smooth curve. As a branch grows, it germinates buds (white dots) from which shoots emerge to become future branches. However, each phase of growth varies, and the direction of the branch may fork or alter its alignment creating a skewed pattern of development.
In this sketch we have added the outline of the branch to show how it tapers with each subsequent phase of growth. As each new section of a branch grows, the previous ones also continue to develop creating a form that transitions from thick to thin.
Here we have removed the line diagram and have begun to add more branches to the drawing.
Next we have completed the branch structure and started to create the form of the drawing by overlapping its offshoots.
To develop the form further, we have established the sides that we wish to shade with a heavier line and those we wish to highlight with a lighter line.
Next we have built up the shading with charcoal on those heavier lines to add some solidity to the branches.
Finally, we have enhanced the volume of the branches with white chalk highlights.
If you rotate our drawing you can see how branches, a small part of a tree, have a similar structure to the entire tree. It is like a copy of itself on a different scale. Therefore, the practice of drawing a small set of branches increases our understanding when it comes to drawing a complete tree. It is this knowledge that we carry into our next lesson on drawing a tree.