Tree Book: Childhood Roots and Miniature Branches

February 6, 2012

Tree Book

Tree Book

Two more Tree Book pencil drawings:  On the left is Petrophytum caespitosum, Rockmat or Dwarf Spiraea.  It’s essentially a miniature tree, only about six inches tall.  It is primarily a Rocky Mountain plant, rare in southern Arizona, where it is restricted to ridgetop outcrops of pure limestone and marble in the Huachuca, Whetstone, and Empire Mountains.  The drawing shows most of a weathered dead plant, drawn life size.  The living plant has rosettes of tiny leaves at the branch tips, and clusters of tiny white flowers that resemble those of its close relative, Ceanothus.

Photos of this species can be seen here:

The drawing on the right is an American beech, Fagus americana, with exposed roots clinging to a clay creekbank.  I drew this from a color snapshot that I took in about 1985.  It’s in a small wooded creek valley in the northern Virginia neighborhood where I grew up.  I played in the creek as a child.  In high school I went there nearly every afternoon, and the woods became my refuge and a place to learn and explore.  This tree’s roots shaded a pool where a tiny ravine drained into the winding creek.  There were many such trees in that place.  Their nets of smooth bluish-gray roots, interlaced like fingers or rope, hung cavelike over a trickle of brown water and gravel bars of white quartz pebbles.


5 Responses to “Tree Book: Childhood Roots and Miniature Branches”

  1. judithornot said

    Your drawings are beautiful, and your words help make it come alive. I can almost smell the fertile, wet mud. 🙂

  2. ironwing said

    Thank you! I haven’t been back to the place in years, but it is still a touchstone for other places in nature that I have seen. It definitely forms the “roots” of this project, so it was only natural to include a drawing of it in the first pages.

  3. woley said

    Just wondering….when you use graphite do you use a whole range of soft and hard or do you stick to two or three favourite grades?

    I usually pick one like 2B and use it throughout. Wondered what you do? Also do you spray these drawings with a fixative afterward to keep the graphite from transferring? Thanks.

  4. ironwing said

    For years I’ve used mechanical pencils with the standard 0.5mm HB lead on smooth bristol paper, sprayed with Krylon Workable Fixatif when the drawing is finished. I use the old fashioned Pink Pearl eraser. I recently started using O’bon L’Artiste pencils, which are round (made from rolled newspaper, not wood) and come in a set of ten that includes a wide range of hardnesses and three lead thicknesses (the softer pencils have thicker leads). I like these better than ordinary artist pencils because the leads are a durable graphite-polymer blend, same as mechanical pencils, not the scratchy, brittle graphite-clay blend of traditional pencils. Finally, I have a 9B laquer-coated woodless graphite pencil, which is super soft and dark.
    For the drawings in the Tree Book, I’ve been using a combination of the mechanical pencil and the harder O’bon pencils, with one of the softer O’bon pencils for darkening selected areas on the finished drawing. I haven’t been spraying fixative on the pages (don’t want the book soaked with toluene and acrylic!) so I put a piece of tracing paper between the previous two pages when I work on a new drawing. Moleskine sketchbooks are known for being able to accept detailed graphite drawings without smearing, and I love the stiff, smooth, slightly yellowish paper.

  5. woley said

    I didn’t realize the Moleskin books did not smear as readily. I use that Krylon fixative as well–I get you about the toluene!

    I can actually find those O’bon pencils here in Ontario although I’ve never heard of them. I was quite impressed that they used newspapers and a set is not too expensive. I will try and get some, they look really neat. Wow 9B–I thought 4B was being daring. 😉 thanks Lorena.

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