Saturday, October 20, 2012

Branching trees revisited

4th grade student charcoal drawing, fall 2010

photo on top of  'Stewart's Mountain'  - no 'Y' trees here!
In a post last October, I wrote this:  "Many of you post about drawing/painting trees, using the "V" or "Y" method. The problem is, when I look out my window here, every tree has a distinct trunk that continues, narrowing, to the top of the tree. Actually, with all the woods out my window, I only can see ONE tree that has a "Y" trunk, though there are plenty of "Y" branches. So unlike the rest of you, I generally don't teach tree drawing that way. It happens that THESE trees in this post all head right off the top of the paper, solving the problem of "how to end the tree". Maybe it's cheating, but they look pretty good, don't you agree?"
I don't want to seem critical, but where did this "Y" tree craze come from?  We have all practiced observational drawing, so why not use observation to see how trees are really put together?  When my students drew these trees, we looked at the trees out the windows, we looked at photos of trees, and they practiced.  The kids learned that branches can grow out of the trunk anywhere, sometimes near the bottom.  Sometimes they grow upward, sometimes downward, sometimes straight, sometimes bent.  The kids drew lightly with pencil and erased where a branch was to grow out.  They similarly branched their branches.  Sometimes the trunks were split, but not always.  Am I making sense?  Am I offending you?  (I hope not.)
 These tree drawings, completed with black and white charcoal pencils by 4th graders, were all previously posted, some last fall here, some the prior fall here.
a real "V" branching tree?!
The trees in the photo below were painted by 3rd grades.  I posted more about this lesson last fall, here.  We were learning about Van Gogh, texture, and warm and cool colors.  The trees and textural designs were drawn first with glue, with playground sand sprinkled on it.  Tempera was painted over the dry glue and sand, with warm or cool for the tree, and the opposite for the negative space.  
 The tree below was created for a Klimt project, by a 4th grader.  It's hard to tell, but the ground is collaged with fabric and patterned papers, and the tree and background are bedecked with jewels and glitter-glue.  I don't seem to have any other photos of these trees. 
and yet another branching tree?


  1. Beautiful trees Phyl, thanks for posting this, I like your approach!
    I read a comment you made on a blog a week or so ago about Zentangles, but I can't find where for the life of me. Do you remember it? I'd really like to track it down. I only started blogging in August this year, which is when I first heard the term. I was beginning to think that after 30+ years of art teaching I had completely missed a whole genre (that I had thought was just doodles!), so your comment was very welcome :)

    1. Elizabeth, I've made a LOT of comments about Zentangles! You can find a whole post on my opinion here:

      But I don't remember where I may have made a recent comment. Thanks for asking!

    2. Thanks Phyl, will check your post. It may not of been all that recent - when I start browsing I tend to get a bit lost in time.... which would explain why I couldn't find it again :)

  2. I love anything that has to do with trees! I especially like the one with the curly branches! :)

    1. My fave is the first one with the hopping bunny :-)