I’m at the point where I need to consider the tree models for the cameo and I’m sharing that process in the hope you’ll find something useful in it. As far as techniques go there’s nothing new here, it’s simply a different way of thinking about what’s worthy of modeling and what I want to communicate with it.

Mockups Are Your Friend
The twigs and branch material you’ve seen in previous photos are simply placeholders. They are there to help me judge the placement and proportion of the trees and woodland features in relation to the ground and the trains.

Communicating A Sense Of Place
As a design element, trees have power to shape our perception and direct our gaze. Placing them haphazardly shortchanges the impact they bring. At this stage I’m looking at local woodlands and tree groupings to understand growth patterns and why they are where they are. Has development had an impact, does the terrain influence things and so on?

On the cameo I plan to use trees selectively and I want them to be recognizable models of specific trees found in this region of the country.  My first model will be of this sycamore tree. It’s one I’ve had my eye on for some time.

Like any other project, I’ve started gathering my reference material. I’m lucky that this tree is less than two miles from my house and that it’s easily accessible to study and photograph. It’s next to a road and I have a similar setting where Mill Road meets the backdrop.

Thanks to the shallow depth of the cameo and the forced perspective aspects I’ve incorporated, I have a delicate balance to maintain. The key aspect in this setting is the height. This is a tall spindly tree and putting it close to the backdrop may ruin other aspects of the scene, yet reducing the height too much will create a toy-like appearance when a train is present. I’ll have to experiment with different heights and determine what works.

Prepare Early Then Jump In.
Before I start twisting up wire for the trunk and branches, I’m taking my time to study this tree carefully. In addition to the photos, I’ve made sketches to learn the form and lines that give this tree its character. I’ve mentioned before that drawing, no matter how crude, is an excellent way to learn about an object. Sketches like the one shown are a question and answer session between my understanding and the subject.

I’ve stated before that our preconceived ideas get in the way of seeing the actual object. Perception and reality engage in a daily civil war. In making such sketches, I’m constantly asking questions:

How does this shape relate to that line?
What angle does that branch come off the trunk at, how long is it?
What proportion is that to that?

This process goes on and on, until I understand the basic qualities I want to capture in the model. You can do this with photos, but the hand, eye and mind coordination required to draw a subject leads to a deeper thought process.

This is where I’m at now in the modeling journey. It’s new and different. It’s challenging and scary and my first attempts are likely to be horrid and disappointing. So what? It’s okay to fail, again and again if needed. Making models of specific trees is likely not a part of the North American story of model trains but, why not? If you read this blog regularly, then you understand that modelers like us do things like this right? With the tools and materials we have available today, there’s nothing to stop anyone from taking their craft as far as they choose to. Learning is what keeps things fresh and interesting for me and maybe for you too.