But how well do we really observe them?
When I occasionally go back and peruse my urban sketchbooks there is rarely a page that doesn't include a tree. This is partly because I live in the sub-tropics (Brisbane, Australia) and there is growth everywhere around me, but it is also because I am drawn to them especially in the most built up areas.
Instead of focusing on architecture and "street furniture" and seeing foliage as a secondary consideration, I find myself looking at the body language of the urban trees first and then I look for the reasons that have caused any unusual growth. It makes me think and then observe factors I may have missed in a first cursory glance. There is potential to become engaged in ways you never imagined and your on location sketches potentially gain another dimension.
In preparing for the Activity I will be teaching in Manchester, I have spent time being a bit of a detective around my city, investigating the way trees BEHAVE.
I have put together a few simple categories.
1. Trees affected by nature, - wind, light, space, other trees, seasons.
2. Trees affected by human actions, - power lines, paths, buildings. This is demonstrated by growth angles, damage, recovery attempts etc.
3. Trees that have actually influenced town planning, - buildings, roads, paths, built to accommodate them.
|A "must stop the car" moment!|
If these things can be observed and recorded visually in your sketches you will be telling the real narrative of your urban environment. You will never get formulaic and lazy, and efforts will be rewarded.
|Medieval Power indeed! Tree as billboard.|
|Cemeteries are full of great examples of weird angles.|
|Power poles were trees once too. What a parallel!|
|Botanic gardens are great places to learn.|
Finally, for beginners to sketching, trees are a good place to start. You can do quite a bit of blind contour drawing to loosen up and you will really get the "feel" of what the branches and leaves are doing, and secondly trees are a very forgiving subject.
No-one is ever going to tell you, "the eyes are too close together" or "there is something not quite right about the nose" !