3.1.2 Larger observational study of an individual tree

Here I will draw my Portuguese corktree, the “soubreiro” with more detail. The characteristics of the cork tree are solidity, it has a heavy,thick, winding, gnarly trunk and branches, but then also lightness in the foliage of rather small leaves trembling in the wind. I like this contrast of heaviness and solidity of the base  versus the soft and light overall shape. It is a very generous tree giving thick layers of cork that is traditionally used for a multitude of products.

I will use a range of different pencils including my new 0,5 mm mechanical pencil for small detail and attempt a realistic drawing. Today I went to one of the incredibly amazing artsupply shops here in Lisbon and stumbled upon a paper called “papel vegetal” in A4. It’s very transparent and probably used for copying  or frottage, similar to my baking paper. I got the idea to draw a very detailed surface on one sheet, then the shading on other sheets and layer the drawing to create depth.

I am drawing a relatively young soubreiro, maybe about 40 years old. The older trees can easily be over 100 years.

Here I drew on 3 separate layers- the top one very detailed, the two bottom ones focusing on the shades:


When I put one over the other the contours get softer, and the drawing has more depth.


I am quite happy with this experiment. It allowed me to try something new and I think it reflects the character of the tree well. It is still a very illustrative drawing though- something I will try to avoid in future.

A few more cork tree details from my sketchbook. I really am falling in love with this tree and will continue experimenting with other media too.

A simple black Uniball version:


The number on the tree shows the year when the cork has been taken. Usually a corktree gives a new layer of cork every 9 or 10 years.


3.1.1 Sketching individual trees

It is a little ironic that I have just left my tree filled surroundings in Bali to live in a flat in a city, Lisbon, in time for this exercise- sketching trees.  But it will do me good to have to find and focus on trees here and not only feel overwhelmed by city life!

This weekend I did a too short excursion to the nearby park Monsanto and did some first trials with a white eucalyptus tree.

I have decided to explore the cork tree instead- the soubreiro, because it is the most typical tree of Portugal for me, and it is also the nickname of my partner ( it sounds better in Portuguese) 🙂

First soubreiro trials:


This exercise calls for 4 different views:

  • Draw a simple outline of the tree’s overall shape.
  • Draw basic shapes in outline, or shaded areas that describe how the foliage forms in different masses around the tree.
  • Draw the outlines of the trunk and the main branches of the tree that you can see.
  • Draw with lots of scribbled outlines or shade roughly to try and indicate something of the texture of the foliage.

Here I divided my A4 sketchbook page into 4 frames to draw these 4 version of the same soubreiro tree:


It is true that I already feel somewhat more confident in drawing a tree. I look forward to look more at the details in the following exercises.

More drawings of individual trees:

The olive tree- Umbertine, Italy: