Drawing directly from life is a core element of my practice and spending time amongst the trees is essential in feeding my creative practice. Of course being in the woods is also a very grounding and restorative thing to do, with or without a sketchbook.
For me drawing is a way of really connecting with the trees, a process of intense looking and considered dialogue with a living thing. I’m always trying to capture the aliveness of the tree I’m drawing, getting a sense of its movement and flow, its character. I approach it like I’m having a conversation, asking questions about its form, why it grew that way, what has influenced it. The finished drawings become a record of that conversation.
Given how much enjoyment and challenge I get from this process, it seemed only natural to start sharing the experience with other tree lovers this autumn through my Woodland Drawing workshops.
I’ve met many people who tell me they would like to be able to draw and in particular want to be able to sketch the beauty they notice while out and about. Often what holds them back from taking up a pencil and sketchbook is the idea that they must make ‘good’ drawings. They know that their drawings won’t be perfect and that fear of perceived failure stops them trying. We probably all do it in various areas of life, I certainly do – it’s safer to not try at all than to try and risk failure.
When I teach, I work hard to reassure people that there is no failure when it comes to drawing, only a series of experiments which you learn a little from each time. Every drawing will have something to teach you and every single one will have elements you’re not satisfied with. Learning to draw is a long process, a journey rather than a destination, so we might as well start travelling and see where it leads. After all, what’s the harm? It’s only paper!
Trees make great sketching subjects – they are plentiful and easy to find, they are full of interest and they hardly move at all. However, drawing a tree can be a bit overwhelming to begin with because they are so complex, there’s just so much information to choose from. In my workshops I tackle this problem by giving my students some methods of eliminating the millions of details and focusing on what really interests them about what they see.
I’ve found that once people are immersed in the outdoors and supported by a mixture of structured exercises, demonstrations and guidance, they’re able to let go of the need to make ‘good’ drawings and embrace the idea of conversations and experiments instead. “Totally absorbing”, “So relaxing”, “The time just flew by!” are common comments – that’s the joy of using your brain in a creative way.
If you share my love of trees and would like to try drawing with me, just get in touch or connect with me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. I’m planning my next group of Woodland Drawing workshops for spring 2022 – to hear more about my teaching and get first chance to book a place, please subscribe to my Studio Newsletter.