Live Lessons: "Tree" - Graphite

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This lesson series features:
9 Hours of Instruction
9 Videos

About This Lesson Series...

In this lesson series, we’ll create a drawing of a tree with graphite on lightly toned Stonehenge paper.

Lesson 1 (1:08:19)

In lesson one, we use a grid to lay out the contour lines of the tree while focusing on the trunk and larger branches. We then begin the process of developing the illusion of leaves, starting in the upper left hand corner.

Lessons 2-3 (2:23:58)

In lessons two and three, we continue developing the leaves and textures. During the process, we discover how abstract shapes and values can translate as a realistic image. Instead of focusing on drawing leaves, we focus on drawing what we actually see.

Lessons 4-5 (2:20:43)

In lessons four and five, we continue developing the textures, including the smoother textures on the trunk and branches. We discover the importance of cross contour lines and how they can be used to create the illusion of form.

Lesson 6 (1:12:25)

In lesson six, we patiently work our way across the composition, making our way to the right and lower portion of the picture plane. As we go, we add subtle shadows, slowly bringing out the illusion of light within the scene.

Lessons 7-8 (2:12:26)

In lessons seven and eight, we continue this process as the drawing begins to come to life. We see that even though this subject may have seemed difficult in the beginning, it’s quite possible to achieve with a little patience and knowledge.

Resources for this Lesson...


Photo Reference

Finished Result

Here's what you'll need...

  • Lightly Toned Stonehenge Paper
  • 2B Graphite Pencil
  • 2H Graphite Pencil
  • Vinyl Eraser
  • Ruler

Lesson Discussion

  1. I am loving this lesson. So new at drawing. This has encouaged me to LOOK in a more detailed manner at my environment. taking m y time to enjoy this process. thanks, Barbara

    • Hi Steve,

      I picked the sharpener up at a local art store. You should be able to find one at one of the big box art stores or online at Amazon. I hope this helps.

  2. Matt – How many gradations of black or gray would you think there are? Thank you for another excellent series. I am not great yet using the value scale. Anne

    • Hi Anne,

      It’s hard to say. There are many different values – at least 20 or more. I wouldn’t worry too much about using a value scale as far the number of values. I would try to match the value that you see in a particular area. You can use the value scale, if you wish, to compare the value in your drawing with that of the reference. In this drawing, I’m allowing the values to be a little lighter to create a more “airy” appearance.

    • Hi Thomas,

      I don’t use any fixative at all on any of my drawings. I find that it changes the values too much. Some people prefer to use fixative, so I wouldn’t not recommend it.

  3. looking forward to seeing the editing process and figure drawing, im way behind ,loving the tree lesson think its going to be a game changer for me in learning and want to start the birds in color pencil . Loving the forum ,received some friendly help which i need being a beginner to drawing.
    Great work on the site Matt tom

  4. Matt you have a nice system here. I have recommended you to many people who have checked this out, and or have joined. The well rounded courses are perfect for anyone to learn what they need to get from it. Your system has helped me become the confident art loving person I am today. Because of this system I am drawing what i want when i want and, still feel I have to go back over the basics from time to time just to be sure i am getting it correctly. Art has always been part of my life, but now because of this learning system that has been put together it is my reality, not just doddles and scribbles. Thanks again Matt jeff cook

  5. Matt because of this system i have the best of color pencils, soft pastels, oil pastels oils paints, acrylic paints and of course graphite at it best. With the high end supplies drawing is always a pleasure. I know even at this point with low end materials I can still make a drawing look real good because of the lessons you have provided. Congrats to you Matt, and your unscien staff working to make it all great. Jeff cook

  6. Hi Matt, I’m in Canada, and I can’t find leads of different grades of graphite (2B and 4b) for the Staedtler mechanical pencil. I tried to order some from Blick, but the postage costs are higher than the leads themselves. Do you or anyone in the community have any suggestions? Thanks!

  7. I can’t find that Stonehenge paper here in the Netherlands (or I’m not searching good enough). Do you have other recommendations for paper that’s good for this technique? I love this drawing. Can you also do a live lesson series about a misty landscape or a vintage scene like you see a lot on old analogue photographs? That would be really really nice.

    Hi Matt
    Could you give me more details re the Staedtler Mechanical pencil you have with interchangeable leads? I had no idea just how many types they produce.
    I am loving the various courses/lessons that you present, and grateful for the fine instruction to better drawing; anything really.
    Kind regards
    Maggie Grant

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