Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Gnarly Tree Shafts

Here is the dissected anatomy of a tree shaft - it's made of subordinate tubes that cling together to make the bigger form.
Here are some good and rude trees to practice hierarchy on.


Here the sub tubes are wrenched apart. The feeling I get from the form of trees is that they are constructed out of opposing forces. One major force is trying to hold all the sub forms together. For part of the tree that force is strong and binds the tubes tightly. Nearer the top of the tree, the tubes themselves have an irresistible urge to peel apart from each other. They want to escape the domination of the tree, but the power at the center is too massive to pull totally away from.

These tree tumors look fun to draw. They lack shame.
Frazetta's approach to trees and hierarchy is similar to Post's. He doesn't paint every detail. Instead he suggests the major forms and some of the sub forms that crawl along the overall shape of the trees. Also like Post, he uses liberal and pleasing negative spaces to frame the solid objects in the compositions.

Frazetta's details are wrapped around the direction and form of the twisting tortured tubes of tree meat. Smooth buttocks help set off the rugged texture of the trees.
Trees compose around characters.


Marina said...

Wow. This is SO useful. Thank you so much!

Paul B said...

Thanks John! Beautifull drawings and analysis!

I've been reading de Famous Artist Course, they talk a lot of concepts you have taught us. What do you think about the Famous Artist Course?

Sorry for the lack of posting in the Catoon College Blog, I'm gonna put some stuff tomorrow.

Your pal, paul

Lester DiLorenzo said...

These are awesome. I've been trying to brush up on my trees lately.. no pun intended. Thanks!

patrick sevc said...

Thanks for these posts John. I've been drawing trees a lot lately!

Pete Emslie said...

"Gnarly Tree Shafts"? I thought maybe that was a close relative of Stinky Wizzleteats! Never mind...

Oscar Grillo said...

Walt Kelly and Arthur Rackham are also two masters at drawing trees.

Anonymous said...

I never thought about trying to study from real tree trunks before. I'm not nearly as good at drawing those things as Howie Post and Frank Frazetta. It's already a load of work getting construction and the other important principles down, and then studying from the best cartoons ever made, and then having a sketchbook around to caricature people and to study from life, and now I have to learn how to draw real, convincing trees? Being a good cartoonist sure isn't as easy as it looks. There's always something more to it.

I'm sorry John. I'm not trying to complain here, but I'm saying that it's so much to juggle, but it's well worth it if I wanna be able to draw like Bob McKimson or any of the Nine Old Men one day.

Kelvin said...

I remember that a while back I was searching for tips and methods for drawing backgrounds but now, I believe that through research and from recent posts from this blog, my questions have been answered. Thank you for such elaborate information, John! It's much appreciated!

And all Canadian artists should draw trees!

-jjmm- said...


Cali-4nia said...

I've always admired Frazetta's trees and bagrounds, but never knew how he approached the composition. I understand better now. Kudos. ;)

Phil Willis said...

Gnarly indeed!

Thanks for another great post.

I'll never look at tree trunks the same way again.

Brilliant idea to include the Frank Frazetta stuff too. So inspiring.


Carmine said...

GREAT post!! Thank you sir.

Like many others here, I too have been trying to focus on trees more. They are interesting, relevant, and fun to draw. :)

Maurizio Ercole said...

Great! Very interesting post! Also the trees of Wally Wood they are a great reference!

pablow said...

Very interesting, and very useful. You are helping me understand how to analyze the forms and comp of natural objects in a deeper way.
Great stuff man

Amalgamated Biscuit said...

What about the tree tops? I find the big bunches of leaves and greenery trickier to draw, I often end up doing big green cloud shaped things which don't look so great.

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Raff said...

This keeps getting better and better.

Marshall Birchbeer said...


also makes for great gnarly sternocleidomastoid muscles!

lee artist said...

hi john just to go off subject, where can i find your character designs



RooniMan said...

Trees do have very interesting shapes and sizes.