How to draw an Oak Woodland

Just as with conniferous trees, the secret to drawing a distant oak woodland is not to draw the trees, but the shape of the forest itself. Pay attention to the shape of the edge of the forest and experiment to create a descriptive line that suggests the foliage of the trees and avoids symmetrical bumps. Carve highlights into this mass of forest to give the impression of individual trees. Pop one tree out in front of the forest. People will see that tree and then see the forest as a bunch of trees. That way you can get away without needing to laboriously detail every tree in the forest. Lets’s take a look at a step by step. Click on any thumbnail to enlarge it.

oaks 1aLayout the shape of the forest, contrasting the rough back edge with the slope of the hill in the foreground. Note that there is one lone tree in the foreground. This will anchor people’s vision so that they will see the background shape as a mass of trees.



oaks 1bNow determine the direction of the source of light. Outline the areas of the forest that will receive direct light. The shapes of these highlights imply individual trees and clumps of trees in the forest.



oaks 1cUsing cross hatching, shade the shadow areas of the forest. Break up the mechanical nature of the hatching with squiggles. This implies that there is detail down there but is fast and does not bog you down or get fussy.



oaks 1dA little detail goes a long way. I added trunks on some to the trees and shadows that coincide with direction of the light. It is late in the day so the shadows are long across the face of the hillside.



oaks 1eLay in flat washes of color. I started painting the close grassland first. As I moved to the grassy areas behind, my waterbrush slowly ran out of paint, making the background hills paler. Skies are not always blue. This evening sky glows gold. It is a graded wash that gets paler toward the right, the direction of the sun.


oaks 1fI reinforced the shadows with Shadow Violet (Daniel Smith). I left a crisp sunlit edge along the tops of the hills where the setting sunlight strikes directly. I brought the same color into the shadow side of the foliage as well. Take home points: draw the forest, not the trees, maintain consistent lighting throughout the drawing, unify disparate parts of the drawing with a wash of color, here Shadow Violet, and a little detail goes a long way.