Anatomy of a Tree

Oh, so much to say about today’s drawing. As I worked on this, I realized that this drawing represents the midpoint of Inktober. Fifteen ink drawings completed, and after this one, fifteen more to go, and then the month — and the challenge — will be finished.

I have enjoyed Inktober so far, and I’m already thinking ahead to things I might do next year, but back to the present moment and today’s drawing. Even before I did my little search — prompt words: wet, fat, angular, wild, tree – I knew where it was going. Both wild and angular made me think immediately of one of my favorites trees, the American Sycamore.

Finding good reference photos is becoming one of the most challenging aspects of this Inktober project. Although my original thought when Cheeky Monkey Mind and I came up with this little scheme was to simply draw each tree on our list, as the days have gone by, my drawings have become more varied. I’ve done entire trees, and I’ve also done single branches. I’ve drawn trees with fruit, very up-close looks at the leaves of a tree, and just recently the oddly-patterned bark of the plane tree.

The American Sycamore is a parent tree to the plane tree, and its actual name, in fact, is platanus occidentalis, which translates to “western plane” tree. So, drawing the bark of the sycamore wasn’t really an option. I thought about drawing the silhouette of a dead sycamore, but I’d done something similar with the velvet mesquite.  I didn’t really want to do another low-hanging bough, or draw the seed pods of the tree, so what was I going to do?

Finally, after quite a bit of browsing, I got to the root of the problem — literally. I hadn’t yet drawn tree roots, and those huge old sycamore trees have got thick, sturdy ones. So that became the subject of today’s drawing.

Inktober 16 - Sycamore Roots (2)
Sycamore Roots – Ink Drawing by Judith Kraus

I didn’t like the drawing at first, but — like those roots — it began to grow on me after a while. I’m pleased with it now, so I think that makes this my most surprising drawing for the month — so far, at least.

I began by using the last of my homemade berry ink to make a mottled background. I wanted to create a natural feeling in the background, and I think the technique I used was successful. I drew the basic structure first with graphite, and that’s when I began to think about anatomy. I’ve always loved anatomy. I’m one of those weird people who actually has fun drawing bones and muscles, and drawing the thick roots of this sycamore tree reminded me very much of the anatomical drawings I’ve done in the past.

And why not? The roots are part of the tree’s anatomy, part of its physical body.  Thinking about it in that way made it even more fun to draw these roots.

But then I had to stop drawing. I started this drawing late yesterday afternoon, you see, and I felt I was making very good progress with it. But then it was too late to complete the drawing. My husband came home after helping our son-in-law with a building project, so it was time to put my pencils and pens away and get ready for bed.

When I sat down at my drawing table this morning, I almost dreaded picking up the drawing. I just wasn’t sure if I could pick up where I’d left off. But, I really had no choice. I finished the graphite drawing, then reached for my Pitt Artist pens, and using both a fine point and an extra-fine point, I completed the drawing and worked on adding the necessary shading.

As I said, I didn’t like the drawing. I was sorely disappointed in it, almost embarrassed at the thought of posting it. But then I scanned it, and I was surprised — truly surprised — when I took another look at what I’d done. I definitely accomplished what I set out to do. I’m pleased with my drawing.

And so, on to tomorrow!

CheekyWith tomorrow’s prompt words — battle, graceful, swollen, ornament, tree — it would have been very easy to skip searching and go directly to a Christmas tree. Cheeky Monkey Mind wasn’t having it. So, we did our silly search, and we came up with something other than a nicely-decorated tree with holiday ornaments.

Check back tomorrow to see what we found!

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