"Four Seasons": Winter. Learn Form and Structure by Drawing Trees | Yana Knight | Skillshare

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"Four Seasons": Winter. Learn Form and Structure by Drawing Trees

teacher avatar Yana Knight, Story of Yana

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (43m)
    • 1. Welcome

    • 2. Let's take a walk

    • 3. Tree personality, gesture, direction

    • 4. Drawing the contour

    • 5. Drawing ... not tree

    • 6. Let's draw a branch

    • 7. Congrats and project ideas

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About This Class


A silence surrounding two bursts of activity, winter offers us a chance to study nature unlike any other season. It is in winter that trees take off their clothes, and we are left with a magnificent array of nude models, a naked forest of forms revealing their personalities. It's as if nature, knowing humans' weakness for the nude form, tricks us into coming to see its deepest secrets, with nothing to hide, no performance to put on, and no need for one. All you have to do is be willing to come and observe, be willing to receive, stay patient, and nature will reveal its secrets.

Think of it as a live drawing class with a nude model.This is not a snowy landscape type of class. Like in all parts of these "Four seasons" series, here we'll be looking at some fundamental elements of art and of life in general: this time at structure. Element as fundamental as the seasons themselves. And as all important things should be approached, we look at our subject in a fun, lighthearted way. 


First, I'll take you on a walk through the forest in search of our models. We'll peer through the naked trunks as far as the eye can see, we'll raise our heads up and look right down beneath our feet, and see just how much life there is in places where we never normally look. We'll look at how to see and capture the personality of a tree, told by its bare spine and bones. Is it humble, majestic, lonely, sad, fragile, powerful? We'll see how parts of the tree tell us its story and how relate to each other.

As we learn by doing, we'll continue our exploration on paper. Here we'll explore some ways to draw trees by looking at its gesture, direction, branches, trunk, contour as well as by drawing what isn't. All with supplies as simple as a pencil and a cheap sketchbook.

The main goal of this class is to observe and train your eye, hand and heart so that you have a better understanding of structures in nature, which will help you when you have bigger pieces to work on. By focusing on those "lower level" (meaning fundamental) skills, you're getting equipped with a new way of seeing, a new way of approaching nature drawing and painting which will show through in your future work. And you might get to know your previously unnoticed trees so well that you'll end up making some life-long friends! 


Sometimes to cross new frontiers you just need to take a walk, it might lead you to places you never knew existed. Curious? Join me in this class and let's find out.


Vivaldi Four Seasons. Winter. Allegro noon motlo.

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Meet Your Teacher

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Yana Knight

Story of Yana



Hi, I'm Yana

a multidisciplinary artist and educator living and working in Brussels, Belgium. My work is in the collection of the Museum of Spontaneous Art in Brussels, the Russian Cultural Centre of Belgium and has been featured in the Dutch Design Week. I'm an associate member at the NYC Society of Illustrators and a member of National Cartoonists Society.



My work is inspired by the ordinary and extraordinary experience of living a life, often with a playful, humorous and absurd streak. It emphasises experimentation, exploration of human experiences, invention, observation and storytelling. I work across mediums switching between paints, pencils, words, camera, software ... See full profile

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1. Welcome: hi and welcome once again to my Four Seasons painting Serious wherever. Let nature be a guide. Our teacher. This time we're in winter where tree stand naked and bare. Boyd, offering us a chance to study their forms and personalities. Think of this as a nude model class. This class will take your the forest walk in search of your models. An offer of fun. Exercise to train skills from observation to capture in gesture. On the tree character will cover drawing not only the tree but also not the tree. You'll end up with a heap of studies ready to using your drawing and painting projects, and you'll get to know your trees so well you might end up making lifelong friends curious . I've been joined me on this adventure. 2. Let's take a walk: So now it's time to go for a walk in search for some models, which isn't gonna be very difficult because now the city or the forest of bark. It's completely full off all kinds of naked trees, so there's gonna be very easy. But if you find yourself in a forest or somewhere with loads of cheese, it's, um, going to be a bit difficult to tell immediately in the first now to see you. You're better off looking at individual cheese to be able to spot things about them. When trees are all together like this, it's more about the rhythm on the order, off the trunks and the beautiful partners that create against this guy more than on individual personalities. But here, for example, we have a standard country, just orga tree Andi. Immediately you can notice some things about it, such as the trunk, which is very thick and quite predominant, actually goes almost to the top. You see the branches of very, very fickle so on. Of course, this kind of firm gives the impression of from solidity kind of dominance put in a kind of warm way. So it's, you know, the branches occurred a non threatening. It's like a giant, but a kind one on Rose. Here you have a little baby cheap who is a bit unsure of itself. Maybe not very confident Year that's leaning on the side. Doesn't really know is doing the branches a kind of a bit awkward. It sits like a little kids exploring the world and unsure of it on. In this case, you have very elegant. That's almost like the trees doing Yoga is very focused, concentrated. The trunk is completely straight, and the branches also straight but beautifully elegant and pointing at ports. So it's, Ah, it's someone very elegant, maybe thoughtful. It might have. It reminds me of a ballet dancer or or someone focused and concentrated on this one is again a bit like the oak tree before. I'm also warm looking, kind of curry branches and fluffy at the top. So constant, big, like a bear. But the kind there Where is this guy? Maybe is a bit of a teenager and playful, You know, that branch is a kind of happened down. It's, uh, all over the place. It's happy looking that the curvy parts make it like make it look like a smiling. Maybe it's a teenage kid that's playful in cheeky on, and in this case, we have, ah, again, a very kind of unsure of itself. Maybe not a baby tree, but ah, more timid one with small branches and kind of small three tiny trunk under. Yeah, in general, if you are, If you're in the walk in, you look up the kinds of patterns that kind of arrangement. You'll she I will really amaze you, especially if you don't do it very often. Just raise your head up and you see the patterns formed against the sky by the black branches and the trunks of the trees on the way they interact with each other and the how they cut into the sky on the kind of shapes that this thistle farms, they're beautiful and the arrangement this really endless. The contrast between the grey or the white skies off winter on the beautiful black trunks is really striking, and you can see like, for example, here the two branches and the trunk and form a triangle triangle structure, or maybe can restructure. But it's really beautiful in the silhouettes. Also, um, of trees against this guy is even in the distance or close up on Dhere again, you see the branches pointing in certain directions to the left on. Typically, that's something that you can always notice the trees that they have, Ah, direction in which each kind of species points. So someone kind of more curvy Kurt up. The others are a bit more rigid. Triangular Angula structures. Some are like here. They have, like coral trees based on fractal, so it's not surprising, but it's really beautiful. Andi Yeah, in general, if you have time to explore, just walk around. Don't think about too much about these things, just kind of trying to observe. Absorb it all on your brain will really take a lot in when it comes to dry, and you'll understand this structures a lot better. Having just bean there looked at them and kind of just I made a note of it. It'll help you look 3. Tree personality, gesture, direction: before we start. Just a quick word on supplies. They're not particularly super important for this class. Something's gonna run through them now. So I'm gonna be using a sketchbook. A very basic 120 crams pretty cheap. Just got off with a spiral thingy. You know, just, ah, normal thing you can take with you on a walk. But here, I'm actually gonna just get with normal printer paper. It's even easier. Uh, my pencil Isn't b pencil here? Pretty standard. Nothing fancy. I could also use the three B one for defining kind of darker. And thats I could also use a mechanical pencil. But I think I'm just going to stick with normal one for this, and I'm gonna needed the razor. Teoh raise thinks because this is a reason to be honest. There's absolutely awful. So, yeah, I'm just going to use that. I need one. I have very basic supplies. Otherwise you can use whatever you like. You can use a chair call. You can use ink. Anything simple. You don't really need Teoh. Go on, go and color over this stuff because we're just trying to look at a formal structure and make some quick studies, but as you like. So before we go too much into sketching, I want Teoh just say here and emphasized the importance of first observing your subject. So, for example, people tend to jump immediately in and trying to capture everything they can about the boys about what they seeing. But sometimes it's better to just get to know your subject a little bit before you do that . So first I put down that we observe and we're joined just observed, But we can also awakened from a little studies and little observations that we jumped down about it. So think of it as a kind of a nude model. If you're looking at the tree because that's what it is, it's taking his clothes off for you so that you can drive. It could see its final contained bones on bits just standing there, taking any kind of boys food. You could find trees of various prices, which I'm gonna show you in a minute. So think of it that way. Then, um, what I like to look for and is typically personality. So what kind of personality does this street have? Um, is it kind of more shy Or that the very confident one, is it? Ah, very young tree or somebody's been the rent for maybe hundreds of years already on notice. Place Very well. Also. What kind of mood is there? What kind of action? So what Poise doesn't take. There's a very important thing that ah, people tend Teoh tend to use for a, for example, life drawing things like this, but not always for for trees. But it's It's for me, is the same on some of these things are manifested through, for example, direction. So when I talk about direction is the same as also gesture or we could put a line of action . So essentially, it's a life drawing class. Or if you're doing just drawing at home in water, you try to capture the post. So which direction does it go? So the axis of the points of someone's bending down you know, they had would be there, for example, if somebody looking up someone's lying down, you know, had knees. So it's the main access. The spineless gesture off something on. I think it's to save trees so very often you could find trees. They're going to go this way. Something that goes No, I a, um, to the side. So So imagine, if kind of then branches I don't see like this. So it's like a dancing finger, which is also a tree and is the same kind of thing. So don't forget that there is always, ah, line of action, even it could be. You know, someone like this kind of dense a lot's, uh what other kinds of I can even very straight on they never completely straight, but they can be pretty straight. There is also like a split. So you know, when you have the direction when the new also is like a secondary direction there on the site, so on. These are some things to notice, you think a very important. Then of course, there is the trunk. So how big is the trunk? Is it this or that? How toll is it doesn't go old away. You know, there's a whole different before the branches even begin. You have this, so that's an important indicator off personality of the tree. Also, for example, let me show you. So if we think off a tree, it was a fairly delicate trunk I could have a lot of branches going up this week. So the way I like to dry some I like to think. Okay, Um, what kind of proportions can I see here? Well, I can I can first look at where it's that's from the soil and where the trunk becomes branches. Yeah, I know that the old one always often appears there as well, but I like to see where they actually with a group of branches stats. So this measure for me, it's quite important. And I would call it trunk before ranches And on, um, you could also itself how many of these are in the tree? And that way you could go capture the proportions of the true for example, here would say to you and 1/2. So from bottom to top 2.5 of this, And then the other thing is where this trunk. And so it was time for here and oh, truck. OK, next one would be the size of branches. So until where do they goes on branches, then, of course, direction of branches. Also very important because, you know, often we have trees that gonna go like this, but you also tree stuff totally good up for you also have things that's really go up like a brush or fork or something like that. So these are important, important things. And obviously, of course, you can also have them totally down a ***. That's why it's going toe course significant I am now. The other thing is also on your branches wavy or your branches more angular. So, for instance, you have trees where it's really very angle. And so, you know, the motion of making branches would be something like this. They cross. But across its angles. You see, whereas you have far something like oak tree biggest trunk, which is wavy. Essentially, this is the motion you would use to create. It's true, it's, um, branches their big, much bigger, and they they waylay. So difference between angles on the waves and also how big the branches are. You see here it's a lot wider than, for example, this little guy, so a branch. It's not individual branch wheat, so these other things that you could stay very important. Also, I discovered this little trick that I don't know if it always works, but that the shape of branches of direction of branches is kind of like the same as the leaf than the tree makes. So you could turn. You could enclose it into this kind of Sylhet on that will give you a pretty good direction or which way the branches appointing and what form they will take. So just to give you an idea also, there are a few of these words gonna go like that, and you could also drop but a line around it. And that's the leaf. So it's kind of fun, just fun thing to observe. But also it gives you an idea if you, for example, if you shoot and if you start the way that then kind of gives you an idea which way the branches would go and of course, you can just raise it. You know, just keep give the branches by themselves, done it so they're good 4. Drawing the contour: so another nice way Teoh approach trees would be to look at the kind of the simple shapes on the consular than they have. So, for example, sometimes we have really straightforward ones. So by the way, I'm gonna work really very small because I am not trying to make complete masterpieces, but rather small studies. So just to show you so, for example, just the contra from paying attention to this could be very interesting because the branches that kind of like arms so you can create all kinds of Superfund gestures. God, if they're all talking to each other and they all related, it's like they trying to yeah of, Ah, the conversation. So, for example, something like this and then we have another idea. So I supporting these three somewhere, you know, the straight. Yet I still think that the most important thing about them is kind of their the big branches that they have and also the gestures, the movement, here, the way we can make them lean. We exaggerate everything so even differently in real life or in the original, they don't really know as much. Why don't we dramatize it? So you see here It's like a shock tree. Or maybe it's welcoming the others. So they kind of dancing. By changing the direction of the branches, you could change the mood. You could change everything you could as we already seen with the line of action in the previous videos. To we, there is a lot we can change. Um, just by a few simple strokes. If I was to redo this, for example, um presentable. I want to emphasize something else like maybe I want to being this one of it can lean backwards when this one also kind of fun being a bit or is this one was just a bit more straight so and then the last one, Maybe I want the less of it less off, less off on bond a bit on the side. So, for example, something like this. You see, that's a a very different picture from this one by just changing the position of the branches held this on was so the street was so welcoming. So with open arms and now it's gonna like maybe it's stepping back a bit, not so confident. I don't know what it is doing, So that's just some ideas of the counter. Also, this is quite handy for when you see a lot of trees. So, for example, you're walking through the forest and you know it is This is a fantastic career. Ethnic structures. Very nice to relax. They're all different. If you really observe, they're always different types of branches. But what What is nice about them? It's not certain so much, even their differences. But how? How? Structure? There. So like his lines. She if I was to do, they've been differently. Also, this is a very nice I think to do sometimes, dude, several times So instead of just got off one and them you try it once and that way you really have nothing to lose because you just think about just redo it in two seconds. So there's a kind of the rhythmic the phone rhythmic patterns you yet and all you have is a silhouette or like a contour. But you see what they are, right? So and then maybe something, um, of a bath to here. I'm not paying attention to anything else except the counter. For example, 5. Drawing ... not tree: Quite often they come across trees that are or that seem quite overwhelming. It seems like there is a lot of information and you know, their branches everywhere. You know, sure what's going on and very overwhelming on so one of the waste Teoh kind of reduce. That initial panic is to look not maybe at the branches and what you can see. But that's what is between them kind of the air between the branches. So in this video, we're just gonna do some studies that look at the negative space. It's like in this example. For instance, it's everything that isn't so. It's all the shapes that are in between branches, and that way you get the object shaping up through in between the spaces that's you draw. So let's try the cells, for example, with no tree. I'm just gonna make some there for it. I wanted to big. So what I'm doing is I'm just paying attention at the bids where you can see air through the branches so I don't draw Brown just at all. I don't even really look at them that the better. I just see we had the The air is showing up the blue sky, but there, that's where I put in the shapes. It's basically just negative space, but it can be super useful because sometimes what isn't this more clear than what is? I guess in the life also, I will have the time in a conversation. For example, you can tell much more by what wasn't said, but what's going on by what? Waas. So it's a bit the same thing here, and you will see once you've done once well, twice. That's going to think. You get the idea and you'll be able to place this shapes a bit more randomly. You don't have to think so much about it anymore because you kind of remember the on the patterns that's, Ah, branches take Okay, good. That's one example these bread and these gaps you condone for contrast. For example, you could make them different color would just, uh, color the man. You could also make them completely different colors, So imagine each piece you would render in a different color. You are in a car, skin with choice. I could also make a collage out of it. Where you sticking on Just the negative, shaved basically what we've just done Withdrawing. But imagine if you were to cut out those elements from cardboard or and just from colored paper Sweet, Rapid does whatever. So you see, we just go for the simple option here. Just demonstrate to you and the option of coloring them in just a normal fence stuff. OK, this bit little Cindy, for example. So that's Ah, little oak tree that Lloyd's of ways to do it, of course. But that's one idea. So next to it, I'm just gonna dio another one. Give a little neighbor, uh, this was gonna be kind of a more close up and get him just paying attention. What isn't. So where the where I can see the blue skies and I go for the big shapes. I don't try to go up to two small ones because sometimes it's just, uh, overwhelmingly. It's not really strong, graphically, with negative shapes. It's the shape that's interesting, right? So it's interesting to see this kinds of structures Aaron urging and not so much belt sign it, saying a little broken brown Jews and details. It's maybe not quite for this. So, as you see, I'm just doing the same thing off course. It's up to the level of detail you want. So you could just do what I did here. If you look on the left side when I'm working now, uh, the shapes are much larger. And on the right side, I didn't decide Teoh to do some detail, but it's really a choice. So you could end up doing birth and a bit more detail. Then this sofas employees have branches and then straighten this up. So in this case, you have, um um Oh, close up. Version of that's it's right. Now I'm gonna finish off with the quite straightforward one where I think the shapes are really very interesting and fun to make you see triangles, rectangles, miss Hey, uh, - colorant results. I guess you get the idea also makes reading not these designs, because they visually very strong because the shapes are quite straightforward. So oh, you think could be done. But I like I already said collage. You could make what color is out of this. Imagine if you had all the shapes lined up and then you just rendered it in water color. I could look fantastic. Play with colors. Oh, you just keep it super simple, like mine also tells you a lot about way for Miss the the things that you're working with. So here, the tree that you working with it tells you quite a lot about its structure, how it's built. So you get all the main lines you may want to accept before do the details. Or you might just want to believe it. But the kind of strong graphic designs. But it's a way. Okay, good. 6. Let's draw a branch: So in this video, instead of looking at big, huge trees in the park, we're going to look a bit more closely up at the part of the tree. So here I go to a brighter picked up on, uh, by observing this branch, we're gonna learn things felt enjoying trees because actually, this structure is very much. It's very similar to, um a really true if we look at it, it's kind of like as a little trunk here. And then it goes out with the branches and branches Start about there very similar in its appearance. What is basically just a miniature military. So it's, uh, configured it up before you picked up a minute territory and now we can draw from it. So I'm just gonna kind of few some of the techniques that we've covered here, for example, you know, if if I observe it, the trunk is pretty straight, although it's never really straight into concedes, quite an angular. So it must be an example of a Angula chief on the's branch is bigger than the others, so we can think of it doesn't chunk and then the branches. I would ignore this one because I would prefer that it comes from here. So this would be like my measure ful. How How many of these guys are in the the overall brunch to hear what they want to three for its about five. If you want to get, like, the kind of the very, very, very top. We're just on the five if you don't really care about that particular one. So, um, it's a very delicately also, if you observe the direction of branches on the very straight little drunk. So we were expecting something, So there's out to be quite a quite delicate also. Let's try. Try this out. So if I want to put five of these things, I should say maybe start dinner 234 Okay, It's funny love. It's only here 4.5, because I'm not so bothered about the very, very top. So we just indicates I want to really indicate where the branches split. I doing very, very light festival skate, but also quite rough. In this point of just I want to get the details and not so much. No, sorry, I have the structure in so much detail. No, it is that we know doing straight lights, even if the sort of a bit straight issue, they're not really, because the angular and we can always check by going over the negative shape. If we look what this form here under that form there, we could see if they kind of from the right track were not so negative. Shape is also very useful for taking form. This branch should be smaller again. It's up to you if you want to stay very, very faithful and look closely at different detail on sometimes it's fantastic fun because and we think we know it's stuff that we don't on. It will really prove you your understanding of this. These guys of branches of trees, of just organic structures, really they they they're not man made, so it it's not, and at the same, you can't you can't tell always if you make a mistake. Or maybe this was just really like that. So you know, because all the angles, that kind of different. But they do full of logic, and that's why it's important to make studies kind of like this into observe exactly for this, so that you, through practice, get to understand what the logic of it is. I don't want to make a super boring long video this So I'm just going Teoh do it quite roughly in order to demonstrate really the technics I've already explains and in the glass so that you can, uh, continue doing this exercise himself. So you see, the trunk stops here, so if it stopped there, shouldn't be there at all. Well, this is where the split split. Also, this is illustrated when I made it. What? Just a few details. You see, the buds follow a logical so they placed. It's quite important that we don't end up with straight lines anywhere. Even the straightest ones are No, really. There's always some kind of a weighty small pattern going on. - No . So it's nice to question sometimes you think OK, this is like this. There's that way. But if you really look closely, it wasn't true. It wasn't like that. So you must you must question I also know where if you want to shaded later, tonight's my light is coming from here. So it hits this way from the right on. That's the way we have fun. The shape is old darker homicide on the lake cost to shut down to about black background, which you can just about see, uh, this is a cylinder more or less right. The trunk. So you can think of it in terms of that sort of shape for what kind of shadows it might leave. So yeah, no, to make a long and boring very out of this, but you get the idea. So that's, uh, put them so my side that's trying to capture it. And you see, it's ah, it's a very delicate kind of, um, little tree on and we could check it. That was sort of on the right track. With the negative space here, I would say that that brunch maybe goes unknown people to the side with that, there's a push to straight up. But you have, maybe somewhere in between, so it's a trick it itself. They're here. We have a split, and then we should have another split, right? So something like that Okay, 7. Congrats and project ideas : So, congratulations. You've made it to the end of the class. Do you have completed all the studies? So now I would love to see your work. You can think any technique the chief learned here. Or maybe even all of them combined. Andi, go out. I'm trying to capture some trees of your own. Oh, if you don't, If you can't go out, then you can always find some protection. Internet. Or maybe you already have some Forte's. It doesn't matter. But you can pick up any technique, for example, how to do the personalities of the trees with drugs with directions of branches and what types of branches there and then kind of make quick studies off the trees that you meet when you walk, for example, or in your neighborhood and applied that maybe with some comments you could also make I'm kind of thumbnails off silhouettes or even from nails off different personalities. Different treaties in action. If you noticed some cute trees, I don't know, hugging or talking to each other, you can see very fun dramatic gestures. I would love to see that, for you can learn, choose just a negative shade technique. Kia which would also be fun. Alternatively, as I said, you can put everything together. All the techniques you've learned on do a big study of, for example, your favorite tree on Nice idea would be to pick one I enjoyed for, say, 20 minutes so you could also draw it multiple times on. Do you can most all of your attempts in the project gallery. I would absolutely love to see your results on good luck.