Some Methods of Suggesting Foliage.

Figure 42. Some Methods of Suggesting Foliage.

It is not our intention to give the impression that the representation of foliage offers no problem, as this is not the case, for to draw it well is, indeed, far from being a simple matter, - in fact, many draughtsmen who have little trouble in rendering a building find foliage a stumbling block. To draw it well one should know it well. Too often beginners try to sketch from memory, forming masses of almost meaningless lines on their paper, trusting to chance that the result will be satisfactory. Perhaps it will, occasionally, but unless one has drawn a great deal from nature or at least from good photographs, his memory will probably play him false or lead him into the common error of drawing all foliage alike, for there are many men who have acquired the knack of indicating one or two typical forms fairly well and who use them over and over again regardless of conditions. Such repetition of course produces inexcusable monotony.

Whereas it is from such outdoor sketching and drawing from photographs as we have just mentioned that one is able to acquire most easily a knowledge of foliage representation, it is suggested that as a valuable preliminary preparation the student should study his botany, and read, also, some of the many excellent books devoted mainly to the consideration of trees. (There are plenty such, so it seems unnecessary to call attention to any particular ones here, though for a concise volume on the subject, F. Schuyler Mathews' "Field Book of American Trees and Shrubs" is excellent, especially from the draughtsman's standpoint, as it is fully illustrated with pen, crayon and color reproductions. Then there are some written entirely from the artist's standpoint, among which Rex Vicat Cole's "The Artistic Anatomy of Trees" is an excellent example, for although it is an English publication dealing mainly with trees native to England, it nevertheless offers many suggestions applicable to the representation of our own trees.) A perusal of such volumes will not only familiarize one with the names and leading characteristics of the more common varieties, and train him in the laws that govern their growth, but should, also, strengthen his love and appreciation of the beautiful in nature. It is by no means necessary to learn all the scientific terms employed by the botanist or to memorize more than a few of the essential facts, but it is advantageous to gain enough of a knowledge to enable one to answer such questions as the following, - What are "evergreen" trees? What are "deciduous" trees? Name some characteristics of the Pine family; - of the Maple family; - of the Birch; - of the Beech.

Do Elms grow in Ohio? Are Hemlocks found in Kentucky? Name five trees that are tall and pointed. Name five that are short and wide-spreading. Questions like these may seem unrelated to pencil sketching, but they really are not, for the architectural delineator may be called upon to make sketches for a building in Florida or Maine or California or in some part of the country which he has never visited, using trees of an appropriate kind and shape. Unless he acquires such a knowledge, therefore, or knows where he can easily secure the information when it is needed, he may make absurd errors.

It is, of course, especially important for the artist to be familiar with the foliage in his own vicinity, so as soon as he has gained a considerable amount of this "book" lore he is ready to visit a park or the country, sketchbook in hand, looking for actual examples to illustrate the things which he has read. Before starting to draw, it is well to take a walk among the trees, comparing one with another, observing the shape of the general mass of each, analyzing, also, its skeleton of trunk, limbs, branches and twigs. Search, meanwhile, for a suitable subject for the first sketch. This may be a whole tree, or simply some portion of one, or perhaps a pleasing group of several. In any case the view-finder will be of help in selecting an interesting composition.

At this point it may be well to offer a few practical hints, and one is that the best time of day for sketching is usually the late afternoon, for the rays of the sun are then so slanted as to produce an excellent contrast of light and shade and shadow. Needless to say, however, there is no time between dawn and dark when one cannot sketch to advantage. The student is wise to sit in the shade, if this is possible, or at least to keep the sunlight from falling directly on his paper, for a bright glare will not only prove trying to the eyes but may prevent a correct judgment of the values, especially if one is accustomed to spending the greater portion of his time indoors. In order to offset to some measure the brilliancy of the outdoor light, some artists use gray or straw-colored paper for sketching purposes, which, besides having less tendency to cause eye strain, also permits a pleasing use of white pencil or chalk for picking out some of the high lights. More will be said about such tinted paper in another chapter. As to the size of paper, anything will do, some of the pocket sketch-books being very convenient. The objection to the smaller ones is that they prohibit freedom of movement of the arm and wrist and thus force one into unnecessary difficulties. The notebook proportion of 8 in. by 10 1/2 in., which we have previously recommended, seems practical, and some artists prefer still larger sheets. As the main object of outdoor sketching is to record facts in a direct and forceful manner, one should not use many grades of pencils, for this is no time to worry over technique. Have several pencils, however, of each selected grade for they wear down rather quickly, and be sure to carry a knife as they will need frequent pointing.