More Truth About Shapes and Trees

Sketchbook Pages of studies
More about studying trees and their shapes. . . . . . Even after ten sketches, yesterday, I wasn’t sure of a universal profile that would identify cottonwoods. Today, many more drawings of cottonwoods revealed that there is, indeed, a universality about them. While there is much variation among these trees, there certainly is a FAN Shape that typifies their nature. As you can see from the sketches above, there is much variation in their fan shapes . . .from skinny to fat . . .but the shape still is there. Also, I noted they are somewhat flat on top. No points. And one other cool distinguishing factor. . . . . . .they are built of a series of “clumps” that have volume . . . .shown by value changes of light and shadow. You can see a few value sketches here of the ‘clumps’ stacked into a fan shape (with a few significant chops out of the edges of the fan). These clumps also help identify the tree.

As Frank Gardiner pointed out in his comments yesterday, the trees have ‘holes,’ too. They are important.

The lesson here is to study your trees carefully. The effort pays off in a great way; you have a memory of the trees and how they are constructed so that you can improvise on your canvas and get the idea across to the viewer. Look at a series of maple trees, or elms, or some of the pine varieties. Each has a distinctive shape.

The last photo here is of a series of cottonwoods near some farm buildings and a sketch of some different variations on the fan theme of a line of cottonwoods. Note, these trees often have multiple trunks, too. Interesting.

You may not be interested in cottonwoods. However, in building art about a subject, the more you can modify and create changes in the reality, yet retain the character of it, the more your own style comes to life. It is important to be able to improvise! That can only happen when you keep the core truth about the subject . . . .Jazz is the same exact thing: Improvisation around a melody. We still hear the melody, but the stylization is mezmorizing.

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