Advanced Leafless Tree Drawing

Artwork by Suzy Hobbs

Time: 1 hour+


  • To take notice of our changing landscape as winter approaches.
  • To accurately draw a leafless tree form using shading, hatching, and contrasting colors.


  • Nice drawing paper
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Nice oil pencils
  • Example and drawing aids


  1. Take a close look at the provided images of leafless trees and guide you student to consider the structure of the tree. Do a few practice sketches on scrap paper. Some trees are very angular, while others have more organic forms. What kind of tree is most interesting to the student?
  2. Considering the composition let the student start a line drawing in pencil first. I really respond to the images with tree branches going off the edge of the paper and tree that are not perfectly symmetrical.
  3. Once the line drawing is on the paper decide on your color scheme. In my example I used warm and colors, but complimentary colors or even black and white will also provide interesting contrast.
  4. Describe how using shading and highlights we can make a form look 3 dimensional. Decide where the light source is coming from so that shading is consistent.
  5. Dive in with color. Fill the whole page. In the background, hatching is a great way to fill a space with color and create a smooth looking surface. I also created a color gradient in the background using hatching.

Tweak It!

  • Create a whole forest! Fill the page with different shapes and sizes of trees before adding color!
  • Instead of adding color, stop after the pencil drawing is done and cut it out. Use the tree as a stencil to create a series of trees with different textures on each. You could create a whole forest of trees with textures made with stamps, wallpaper, paint, etc.

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