After years of working at a newspaper, my uncle Jeff quit his job to follow his true passion: preaching. My aunt Connie commissioned me to draw him an image of a tree with strong roots for his 50th birthday.
This kind of assignment is rough for me, because I’m not a fine artist. For the kind of drawing and cartooning I practice, drawing isn’t just a drawing, it’s more like picture-writing. It’s about writing with symbols…either conveying some kind of information or telling a story.
The biggest problem was that I was trying to be clever by using a cross for the tree trunk:
I almost drove myself crazy trying to get it to look recognizable.
And so, after endless drafts, I learned a valuable lesson:
Don’t try to be clever. Just draw.
As Faulkner put it, “Kill your darlings.”
I threw the cross idea out the window, and went with what I love to do: tell a story in a series of simple pictures.
The bonus of all this was that the tree I drew as the “final” in the series turned out to be the best one I came up with:
So Meg and I headed off and got a three-panel frame:
Voila! A tree triptych.
A couple of days later, I learned another valuable lesson: Do some research.
A tree is a slow explosion of a seed….When drawing a tree, always remember that every branch is more slender than the one that came before. Also note that the trunk splits into two branches, then those branches split in two, then those in two, and so on, and so on, until you have a full tree, be it straight, squiggly, curved up, curved down, or bent sideways by the wind.
You draw, you learn.