Things You'll Need
- Drawing pencils
- Art eraser
- Pencil sharpener or exacto knife
- Colored pencils or charcoal pencils, if desired
Flowering dogwood trees glow with beauty, commanding attention from everyone around them. Drawing these gorgeous trees allows you to combine two wonderful things--art and nature. With sketchbook in hand, you can get into the scenes you want to draw. This will help the feeling of the place to come through more strongly in your work. In the process, you'll be able to interact with your subjects, looking at them from many angles, touching them and observing them in changing lighting.
Find a good field guide with pictures and descriptions of dogwood trees, if you're not completely sure you can recognize a dogwood. These trees come in a number of varieties, and a book will help you to recognize them in the field. You might check your library for this type of book. Look for one that features northeast states, since dogwoods are native to the northeast, or check the gardening section.
Gather your materials and put them in a backpack. You might want to bring a camera as well, so you can take pictures to use later. Bring a blanket or towel to sit on if you like.
Head off to find a dogwood tree you may have seen before. If you have one in your yard, simply set up your materials there, using a table or easel if you like.
When you find your tree, walk around it, considering what angle you’d like to draw it from.
Choose your spot. Make sure you sit far enough back to see the entire form of the tree, unless you’re more interested in drawing individual flowers and branches.
Sit and observe the tree, just taking it in visually. Notice how the trunk looks--is it crooked or straight, and what type of texture does it have? Notice how the branches join to the trunk, and follow their forms outward to see how they bend and taper. Notice the thickness and overall appearance of the flowers--at what height do they begin? Are they sparse or lush, and what shape do they give the tree? When you give yourself time to simply observe, you'll see the tree as a whole instead of piece by piece.
Begin drawing a very light, rough sketch of the tree’s proportions. Don’t use a very dark or very light pencil—light pencils are harder, creating stronger markings that are difficult to erase. Strive to capture the tree’s outline, sketching a very basic approximation of where the trunk begins, the shape of the canopy and other key elements. You might begin at the top rather than the bottom, since it’s quite easy to run out of space when beginning with the trunk.
Erase and modify your sketch as needed. Drawing light and using an art eraser makes this easy.
Begin drawing in earnest now, sketching a more accurate outline for the trunk and any visible branches.
Draw the flowers, adding more detail in certain spots, such as those in medium lighting. You can make shaded or brightly lit areas a bit more blurred if you like. To depict detail, place your darker tones directly over the white paper, says artist Trudy Friend in "Drawing and Painting Flowers." This creates a crisper look, which is especially important when the flowers are not close up.
If drawing individual blossoms, find one on the ground or look at one on a low-hanging branch. Study its shape and how the light hits it. You might want to do an individual sketch of a blossom before incorporating it into your sketch of the tree.
Add sketches of individual blossoms to your drawing. You could sketch them on the ground, in closer branches or falling from the tree.
Draw any background and foreground scenery you wish to add, like a stream, hills or wildflowers. Then, sit back and admire your work. If you love it, great--and if not, it was excellent practice.
- "Drawing and Painting Flowers: Problems and Solutions;" Trudy Friend; 2007
Melanie J. Martin specializes in environmental issues and sustainable living. Her work has appeared in venues such as the Environmental News Network, "Ocean" magazine and "GREEN Retailer." Martin holds a Master of Arts in English.