A Walk in the Woods

Come take a walk in the woods with me.  Our trail meanders through tall cedars and Douglas firs mixed with the occasional alder.  Ferns, huckleberry and salal cover the forest floor with a thick blanket of green.   In fact up, down, all around, it’s green – needles, leaves, grasses, moss.  How does one begin to draw this?


The key lies in simplification.  Start by looking for the main shape in the scene – maybe it’s the path, or the the large cedar trunk on the right side of the scene.  Then look  for the next big shape, like the fir tree on the left side.   All those tree  trunks in the middle can be simplified too.  Remember that  you don’t need all of them.  A drawing doesn’t have to be an exact representation of a scene; rather it’s an impression of a feeling about a place.  I use the elements I see to inspire my composition.  Here, I pull out the main ideas I want to use .  So like those very simple shapes I used when drawing individual trees several posts ago, I start with the most basic elements.  My drawing starts like this:


Next comes the tricky part – values.  Light is obviously coming from one source, but there are so many things blocking it as it shines through the trunks, branches and leaves that the shapes are not so clearly defined.  Looking closely for clues,  I simplify and arrange the values. two things to keep in mind: make sure your light source is consistent and the value pattern pleasing.


From here , it gets to be fun.  Add a few details like individual leaves, branches, texture on the tree trunks… and, lo and behold it’s starting to look like a forest!


Now, while this is all about simplifying the scene, I freely admit it is not so simple to do.  It takes practice, lots of practice, to learn to see this way.  I can’t say too many times that learning to draw is learning to see.  What wonders are out there just waiting for us to behold them.  The more you draw the easier it becomes.



  1. You make it look easy! 😉 Thanks for your ongoing tree lessons. . . I’m paying attention! (And good to see you Friday!)

    – Tina

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