How to Draw Old Trees

Right now, I’m going to show you how to draw old trees. Do you remember seeing this tree in my last nature journal in the rain video? Drawing old trees is fun. Especially if you use the crazy ink technique I am about to show you…

How to Draw Old Trees

  • First, find a charismatic old tree that you like.
  • Second, make sure there is a spot the is comfortable to sit. Ideally, find a spot in the shade so your eyes don’t get blasted.
  • Third, choose a drawing approach. I used the stick drawing dip pen technique.
  • Next, give yourself a reasonable goal and stick to it.
  • Take a snack break and walk around to stretch your legs.
  • Push through any self doubt that comes up and stick to your plan.
  • Review your work objectively at the end and remember that quantity is more important than quality.

The stick technique for drawing old trees

Want to try a fun new way of drawing? I did this because I wanted to draw the tree using a stick from the very same tree! This is also probably one of the cheapest art supplies you will ever get. All you need is a container of black ink. I used this sumi ink.

  • First find and carve a stick. I like them if they are not fully dead and about as thick as a pencil. Then I carve a point that is somewhere between a spatula tip and a pencil tip.
  • Second, make sure you have a rag to wipe off the excess ink. This can be a messy process.
  • Lastly, start dipping your pen in the ink and drawing!
  • Try experimenting with different amounts of ink on the stick and using different edges of the piece to make different marks.
Feeling too nervous about this method of drawing trees?

If you are feeling too nervous about this imprecise method in your nature journal then that is probably a good sign that this technique is good for you. Many of us have perfectionist tendencies and hesitancy around mark making that inhibit our art. This manifests itself in drawing less, it also manifests itself in tentative brushstrokes and lines. By practicing with a tool that gives you less control you can train yourself against these negative tendencies. For more work on your mindset check out this post.

Want more nature journaling ideas for old trees?

Above you can see the other video I did on how to nature journal old trees. It was a different tree, a much colder day and I showed you several approaches. In this video I use more of a traditional nature journaling approach including watercolor, zoom in zoom out and more.

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

How to Nature Journal Old Trees

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
  1. Firstly, start with metadata. Always start with metadata: location, date, time, weather, etc
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. Next, zoom in on details. What are some details you can add? Try drawing the leaves, the flowers, the seeds.
  5. 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
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