Bringing all my experiences to the craft of model building is what I enjoy most. The observation skills I’ve developed from painting are, perhaps more than any other, equally useful in modeling.
My default mode is to dive in feet first and hope for the best. It’s irritating how quickly and easily I fall into this trap. Careful observation doesn’t come naturally, I have to work and focus hard before I can see the subject as it actually is versus how I assume it to be. Crafting this sycamore tree model has been an exercise in learning to see all over again. Evaluating my first wire armature showed a lack of understanding of the subject tree. (See the post from last week.) I decided that more fieldwork was needed and went out with my camera and sketchpad one morning. I shot a number of photos both of the subject tree and other sycamores in the area, capturing the overall shapes and smaller details. I also brought home a small branch I found on the ground to study the bark texture and coloring.
The texture and coloring of sycamore bark is distinctive. Since my model will be a background tree, I’m more focused on the coloring.
I like to immerse myself in a subject and gather more reference material than I will use. I shot details like the bark texture of the main trunk along with the junction of the major branches. Even though this is a background tree, there is a distinctive shape where these limbs meet the trunk that the model needs to include.
Of interest here is the shape of the branches where they meet the main trunk. That flare is a characteristic of this species the model should reflect.
The contrast in bark texture where this young branch comes off the trunk would make a great modeling exercise on a large foreground tree.
Digging out my copy of Gordon Gravetts’ book on deciduous tree modeling, I made this second armature using florist wire. While the overall shape is simplified, I feel this armature is stronger and better captures the essence of the real tree. There is still work to do but I’m happier with this one.
Doing these exercises is enjoyable and there’s no reason to rush them. Giving my full attention and letting curiosity go were it wants adds to the knowledge base I have to work from. It’s a reminder to enjoy the process and let the outcome take care of itself.