The Sketchbook Project: Simple tree art project with marker and watercolor

The Sketchbook Project #3: Tree Line Drawings




The Sketchbook Project by Deep Space Sparkle: Drawing Modern Trees

The Sketchbook Project is a record of how my sixth grade students used sketchbooks during their art class to record art information and create projects. Learn how I used sketchbooks instead of individual sheets of paper to teach art & creativity.

Week One: The Beginning

Week Two: Creating Value

Week Three: Atmospheric Perspective

Today’s Project: Tree Line Drawings 

Eloise Renouf is an illustrator based in the UK. I love her work. She has been the inspiration behind many of my art projects, especially the ones that involve printmaking and line.

A browse though her Etsy Store shows her modern style. And it is her print of these color blocked trees that inspired this lesson. If this print isn’t charming enough, take a look at this one.

Eloise Renouf Print


After two major projects under our belt, I wanted to offer my sixth graders a project that they could complete rather quickly. My thought was that any student who needed to finish their perspective landscape could still work on it. If they were done however, they could work on the new project of tree line drawings.

I’m just going to straight out and tell you, although this project looks super easy and quick, it was a HUGE challenge.

My instructions went like this:

  • Draw “trees” with a Sharpie (draw trees without leaves)
  • Draw larger trees near the bottom of the paper and smaller trees behind them
  • Use watercolor pan paints to create a halo of color around the tree branches

I demonstrated how to draw three types of trees. My instructions were pretty basic and I went quickly, assuming that most kids in 6th grade knew how to draw a tree. Not many did. What the kids did end up doing was drawing lots of scribbles and harsh lines.

Here’s the thing.

Don’t underestimate the difficulty of what appears to be easy or simple. This type of drawing (modern abstract) is not realistic so the kids can’t look at a real tree or photograph and draw what they see. They have to come up with an interpretation of a tree that requires contrast, nuanced lines and creativity. No small task.

Still, some kids are great at copying, so their trees look pretty good.

And the others benefited from sitting down with me and breaking down the concept of creating simple lines from detailed subjects.

We had fun and while half the class took the opportunity to work on their landscapes, I was able to connect and draw with the other half of the class.

The Sketchbook Project by Deep Space Sparkle: Drawing Modern Trees

The October Freebie pack is chock full of Fall themed lessons, drawing guides, technique tips and video tutorials. Download this handy drawing guide before you get started on your folk art trees:

Click here to subscribe

Missed the last installments of the Sketchbook project?

Intro:  The Sketchbook Project: The Beginning 

Week #1: The Sketchbook Project: Creating Value + Free Worksheet

Week #2: Atmospheric Perspective + Free Worksheet

Week # 4: Sonia Delaunay Circles

Week #5 Expressive Self-Portraits

Do you have any tips on how to teach modern illustration? It’s not easy for most 11 and 12 year olds so I’d love to read your tricks. Leave a comment below.


The Sketchbook Project by Deep Space Sparkle

What do you think?

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  • Carol Frueh

    Love those trees. Very graphic and well done!

  • jimandellen@hotmail.com

    I am totally doing this with my middle school students. Did you leave backgrounds white, or should they be painted in one watercolor color like Renouf did?

  • seema.shirali

    Thanks for the lessons..great for a complete newbie at teaching art

  • Jill Pecora

    is there an available pdf for this lesson? I couldnt find one .
    Thank you!

    • christy

      Sign up for the newsletter- its in the October bundle

  • Cathy

    I don’t get the worksheet for the tree line drawings. Could I please have a copy?

  • Janie Yeates

    I dont seem able to download the October freebie about tree line drawings. Is this still available?

    • Team Sparkle

      Hi Janie!
      It should be working fine now 🙂 Thank you for letting us know!


  • Pauline Villaruz

    I love your painting ideas!
    Is the October Freebie pack still available?

  • Jacqueline Neligan

    Fabulous Resource

  • Beverly Richardson

    Thank you. so much for sharing your expertise and tips so generously. I was a yearly bundle purchaser and user for 2 years and it was so inspiring and helpful. Although I am confident with my planning at this stage of teaching I enjoy the extra freebies and tips you offer through the year. They are appreciated!

  • Rebecca

    Love this lesson! But the directions file above doesn’t seem to be working. I can’t find it in my email.

    • Bethany

      Hi Rebecca! I just tested the download link and all seems to be fine on my end. Are you clicking the box that “Click to Download”? When I tested the link, I added my name and email and received the email shortly after. I know the Chrome and Safari browser both work well so try one of those if needed. And be sure to check your spam folder in case our email ended up there! Enjoy

  • Barbara


  • Gina Flynn

    Please email me the file. I can’t seem to download it. I love the trees! Thank you.

    • Bethany

      Hi Gina! It’s working now. If you click the download button and add your email address we will send the lesson directly to your inbox. Be sure to check your Spam or Junk folders to make sure it didn’t end up there. Our website works best with Chrome or Safari browsers. Enjoy.

  • Jan

    Love the lesson

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