Like a root.

29 April, 2019.

It’s a blustery day, and for the moment warm. But clouds are predicted to march in on these terrific gusts of wind and the temperature drop quickly this afternoon. The dog and I walk along a mountain bike trail, following a meandering track through dense wood, up hill and down dale. The trees surround us like a loose sweater, providing a shield from the growing squall. Overhead, the boughs are swaying though, and every now and again there is a sharp snap!as a large limb breaks, then tumbles, smashing its noisy way through lesser appendages to the ground.

Stopping to study and admire a particularly mad tree, I pondered how I might go about making a sketch. Like people, every tree has it’s own unique personality. Whereto begin a drawing of a tree is a decision fraught with choice – in fact, the starting point is seldom a random one for me. The process is a lot like a road map, branches tracing a route stretching away from home. And it occurs to me – not for the first time, either – that a tree often looks like an upside-down root system. 

This particular tree is wild and uncontrolled, frenzied arms stretch out frenetically. There is nothing symmetrical about the chaos, and yet, after all, there actually is

Fude bent nib fountain pen and Uni-Ball Vision pen in Stillman and Birn sketchbook.



  1. Nadine · April 29

    My husband once told me the roots spread as far as the branches, so yes, symmetry. I love your sketch!

    • azorch · April 29

      I quite like that turn of phrase.

  2. Michael Gallagher · April 29

    Great sketch.

    • azorch · April 29

      I appreciate the comment, Michael.

  3. John Hofman · April 29

    This is great.
    How do you do it? Is it black ink background on white paper with a white gel over the black ink or visa versa?
    Thank you!

    • azorch · April 29

      Although I sometimes use Stillman and Birn Nova series paper in gray, this was done in a Stillman and Birn Beta Series with 270 gsm white paper. The pens I used are a Uni-Ball vision and a bent nib (or “Fude” tip) fountain pen – the Duke 551Confucius. The Duke is a favorite when I want a lot of variety between thick and thin lines. And while I prefer to use it on the paper in the Canson 180 sketchbooks it does work especially well in situations like this, where I “drag” the side of the nib to create a broken line effect.

  4. Hummingbird · May 1

    I so love trees! And i love that picture. Seems i am always saying i love something. But really… love this post. Trees hanging loose like a sweater? Brilliant. There is nothing not too love in this post. 🙂

    • azorch · May 1

      I spent some time in Arizona a few years ago. I’m a creature of the green, and the one thing that truly stuck in my mind on my return was how much I had missed the trees during my absence.

      • Hummingbird · May 1

        I am a creature of green as well. I spent some time in a few states. Kansas, Florida, California….I loved always coming home to Washington State. 🙂 Been to Hawaii to vacation, those trees have a wow factor!

      • azorch · May 1

        Yeah, I get it. I lived in Alaska for a few years. Same kind of wow factor.

      • Hummingbird · May 1

        Alaska. Yes, a chilly wow :D. Would love to go.

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