Thursday, 7 June 2012

White Oak

I think of canopy trees as 'street ' and 'park' depending on how they have been pruned and underlimbed.  'Park' trees usually have the luxury of plenty of space and develop large low limbs - sometimes so low you have to duck to walk under.  This sketch is a mid-sized white oak - probably 50 cm. diameter trunk and 12m height.  Aside from being true tree royalty, this oak is definitely a great 'park' tree. I wish I had got closer to show more of the sturdy branches under the canopy.

I learned from an Irish colleague, just last week, that Oak trees were often planted beside churches in Ireland, for the very practical reason of having some good lumber close at hand as the inevitable repairs to the interior where required over the decades and centuries.  What a different attitude and perspective on time than we have here in 21st century North America.

Over my career as a landscape architect, I have done hundreds of sketches with trees.  I developed a drawing shorthand style for vignettes of design proposals, which employs a sort of graphic symbol for trees and people which is quick and effective, but doesn't really portray the real attributes of particular species, or reality of what people look like.  As a sketcher, it has been on my mind to do a series of tree portraits, not only of the different species, but some of the wonderful landmark trees in Ottawa which are truly heritage elements.

 Trees are hard to draw, as the filigree of light and glimpses of branches can be fussy.  They are more challenging to paint as there are at least three shades of green, depending on the reflection of light in the open portions and dark shadow parts.  Strangely it seems that the colour values are as much in layers of depth as opposed to upper and lower, sun and shadow sides.

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