Drawing old trees is one of my favorites! I’m gonna show you how to nature journal old trees; in this case a charismatic old oak tree. I’ll use ink, watercolor, and graphite pencil to draw a portrait of the tree, sketch the basic scene, illustrate leaves, and depict some of the moss. I will also talk about other nature journaling techniques and watercolor tips.
It was a cold January day in the mountains of Northern California. The weather forecast predicted snow later that day. Despite the cold and my low energy I knew this was my only chance. Because if it snowed I would be stuck up here and unable to get home to edit this video for you.
It’s at times like these where you need a system.
How to Nature Journal Old Trees in 5 Steps
- Firstly, start with metadata. Always start with metadata: location, date, time, weather, etc
- Next, simplify the complex. Old trees fascinate us partly because of their complexity. You need to simplify or you will be overwhelmed. Starting with thumbnails and using a viewfinder will help enormously.
- Third, prioritize value relationships over color. Value is the difference between light and dark. This is one of the main visual priorities. For more about value see this post by John Muir Laws called “Color gets all the credit: Value does all the work.”
- Next, zoom in on details. What are some details you can add? Try drawing the leaves, the flowers, the seeds.
- Lastly, don’t settle with just a portrait. It is very fun to paint the portrait of a tree. However, by itself this is not nature journaling. Try to incorporate some notes, some measurements, some contextual information or diagrams. Did any birds visit? What does the bark look like closeup? Adding these perspectives will enrich your page and your experience.
Some of the Supplies I Used on This Trip
- My Stillman and Birn Sketchbook
- Close Focus Binoculars
- Pilot Futayaku Gray and Black Brush pen
- Pentel Waterbrush Large
- Watercolor Palette: This is the John Muir Laws palette I use for everything
Just getting started with nature journaling?
Need more tips? If so, check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.
Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not