I think that I shall never see…

…a poem lovely as a tree.

A famous line from a famous poem about trees by Joyce Kilmer is the perfect lead in to our post today about…trees!

Or, more precisely, drawing trees.

I’ve been drawing since I was single digits.  My art “improved” over time until it peaked some years ago (much like my tennis game).  The peak, not surprisingly, coincided with my diminishing time devoted to drawing.

During my lifetime, I have always teetered between “realistic” art and “pseudo-realistic” art.  Translation:  if I took the time to do a life-study or use a photograph for reference, I was talented enough to create exact representations in pencil on paper.  The rest of the time, I “faked” it, using whatever imagery I conjured in my head and not concerning myself with anatomical or biological inaccuracies.

Most of the time, I preferred the latter.  Not only was it easier to “just draw”, but much of my imagined drawings didn’t exist in real life (for example, an olive glaring menacingly at the toothpick about to skewer it or a stack of elves getting discovered by Santa while they’re taking his suit for a spin).

One subject I always enjoy sketching in real life is trees.  Trees are a fascinating subject for drawing, especially with a sharp pencil, ever so capable of delineating the intricacies of tree shapes and character.

I have spent hours on a single tree, trying to capture the unique personality exhibited.  In many ways, trees are like snowflakes; each one is different.  In Florida, we have streets that are lined with palm trees.  From afar, they appear mostly alike.  Perhaps one may be a bit taller and another fuller, but otherwise fairly similar.

Closer observation reveals the differences.  Perhaps a scar here, or an angle there.  One might show more age, another cleaner bark.  Branch out (yes, pun intended) into different trees and you see more variety.  You have surely heard tree descriptions such as gnarly, ancient, majestic, protective, colorful and sturdy among many more adjectives.

I used to bring my sketchbook with me when I traveled to a new location, because the trees would frequently be of a type I had never seen before.  Often, when those trips were for business, I would get up extra early and sit outside in the cool morning air and sketch.  The ground would usually be damp with overnight dew and the light might not always be fully cooperative, but there was always an opportunity to spend time transferring to paper the elbowed branches, etched trunks and cramped leaves.

During my work time, I had many occasions to go on trips for “business conferences”.  These were invariably at resorts with golf courses (and spas) which the business attendees somehow found time to fit into our busy meeting schedule.  Imagine.

Some of the finest trees could be found at these locations.  Since we traveled to different areas across the United States, I got opportunities in the Carolinas and Texas and Colorado and California and Georgia and other locations.

The last few years at my last company was a period of dormancy for me and the beloved sketchbooks ( I have a shelf of sketchbooks going back to my early double-digit years).  Circumstances that ultimately convinced me to stop working, conspired to evaporate my imaginative juices.  I would often sit with a sketchbook on my lap, pencil in hand and plain not think of anything to draw.

During my (relatively) recent imaginative revival through writing, I have been feeling a little more itch in the left hand.  On a recent trip, I brought the sketchbook along and found a small spark to begin drawing again.  The lines seemed a bit awkward and the flow seemed a bit less free and easy, but, like trying to keep a fluttering match lit in a breeze, I stayed with it long enough to produce a reasonably satisfying drawing.  More importantly, it wasn’t long before I thought of something else to have a go at.

I’m thinking I may soon take the sketchbook and head out to a local dog park.  I think the activity will stimulate me even more.  I bet there may even be a tree or two of interest that needs my attention.

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