About Vincent Whitehead
My life has been influenced over the years by many things. First is my fundamental belief in God and second my family and the rural up-bringing that I have had. These two basic values have guided me and given me a love for nature, history, and the country life style.
I have always loved to draw and paint but, in 1996, I decided that it was more than just a hobby for me. I was not happy with the occasional sketch or quick scribble. I began seriously considering the world around me and then working out the God given talent toward a perfecting of a personal style so that I could render the scenes that I so dearly love. It is that perfecting process that has guided me to where I am now. No, I have not arrived. Nor have I attained perfection. On the contrary, I believe my journey has merely served to push me on toward the mark. It has given me feelings of accomplishment and greatened my respect for God’s creation.
How to Draw an Oak Tree (Deciduous) with Pen & Ink
(Click Images for Larger View)
As we have now finished the tutorials based on the Gilbert Home Portrait, it is time to start the one based on a large old Oak, featured in the “Between Two Trees” drawing of the Elwer Family Barn and property.
If you have worked through the tutorials from the “Gilbert Home Portrait” you will have found that the tree bark work is accomplished by using a series of lines, squiggles, dots (called stipple work) and tone work done by a “drag method” I have developed, in a layering process that produces a believable rendering. The layers build depth and tone and can yield values in as many as 7 strengths. The process requires patience and a very light touch but can produce very believable trees.
The main tree in the “Gilbert Home Portrait” was a Maple. This tree, an Oak, has a coarse bark and has wonderful characteristics. The Oak that we will now cover has even more character and depth than the maple. This old Oak has been on the property for ever it seems. I choice to do this drawing originally because of this tree and then heard that the barn was to be taken down. Once I heard that, I decided to take a look at it again and eventually decided I could draw the trees I liked and place the barn in the background as it set in real life. That’s what I did.
Part 1 – Let’s get started…
As with the beginning work on the tree from the Gilbert Home property, I start with a light pencil sketch or outline of the old oak, you can see this from the Layout image compared to the Oak Tree reference:
I continue my light tone work all the way up the main trunk and then move back down to the bottom of the trunk to start again. I keep working my way around the tree stump until I have the base worked in and then start working up the trunk again. Once the basic layout shapes and lines are in you will end up with a single tone and layer image that is a composite of the main design of the tree trunk. I then take my medium point pen and begin to work in the darker tones along the layout lines that will make up the shadowed areas in the bark work itself. The medium point pen is the best tool for this job as it is a bit broader in line. I still only use light pressure with this pen. If you go too dark at first you will be fighting to try and get the layers of value that are necessary to yield a believable three dimensional tree.
! Remember, with ball point pen it is always easier to add layers of tone than to try to remove them.
After the medium point tone layers are in you can begin to put in the small angled lines to build out the shadowed areas along the bark edges in the trunk.
! Remember, keep a consistent light source in your work.
The next layer of tone that will be used is with the medium point pen again but, is done by stipple work. This helps to build up texture and increase areas of shadow in the bark work.
Start at the bottom of the trunk at where the roots come out of the ground. Keeping in mind the shadow areas that will be cast in reference to the light source, add the quick stipple work to the tree trunk work. You won’t add stipple work to the whole trunk in every area. Once the stipple work is in you will have a pretty good looking work in progress tree trunk. See images no. 3 and 4:
Now that we have a good start on the tree trunk, it’s time to take into considerations the details that have made this Old Oak so interesting to me. The trunk has three large bumps of growth on it just below the first small branches. These are large raised, bark covered objects of growth. They are not that difficult to put in and keep the tree interesting.
Part 2 – moving on…
From this point I work toward the first limb and branches with growth lines in the bark that lead you to them. I choose the limbs I want to render and determine which would be drawn first and if there will be any over-lapping limbs or branches. Work out to where the over-lap will be and then stop. Work the next limb or branch to and through the place of the overlap. I keep in mind my light source as I put in my shading and depth lines in each branch and limb.
The next portion of the drawing work in the oak tree is to finish the limb and branch work. Using the methods that we used in the bark work, continue the line layers in the growth direction. I use light pencil lines to put in the basic direction that I want the limbs and branches to go in keeping with the reference photo. There will be less detail line work in the smaller limbs and even less to none in the smaller branches and twigs that get farther away from the viewer in the scene. This is also true just due to the size of the branches and twigs.
Remember that there are very few to no perfectly straight lines that occur in the growth of a tree in nature especially in this type of Oak tree so, as you work through the limbs and branches keep your lines flowing off the straight and flat path. Gravity and the wind have a lot to do with how a tree grows and looks in nature. Think about the weight that would be in the limbs. Show the stress of that weight in each branch as gravity tugs and pulls each one toward the ground as it struggles to grow Up and Out reaching for the sun light it needs. It’s a living thing that struggles against the elements to survive. Let that struggle show in your rendering of the tree in each branch and limb.
If you notice this last Work In Progress image, you will see that I have already added the oak’s first resident… a bird resting on a branch. There will be many more of these to come before I call the drawing finished.
To finish the tree I work the rest of the limbs and branches to the edge of the page and out into the scene. The diameter of the limbs and branches get smaller as I said before, the farther away from the viewer they get and the more toward the end of the branch that they grow.
I hope that this tutorial has been and will be helpful to you to see how to render the different types of trees out there. This is in no way meant to be an exhaustive study on all trees. It is meant to help guide you as you study to develop your own skills as an artist. If you have any specific questions for me please email me and I will be happy to answer them.
Vincent D. Whitehead
“Keep On Creating!”