Art Education – The Poplar Tree In Charcoal


To teach the class to observe and represent the growth and general shape of the poplar tree as seen in Summer.


In drawing from flowers or objects, the specimens or models, excepting in rare instances, are brought into the school-room. This cannot be done with trees ; therefore unless it is convenient to take the class where they can study the tree from a suitable distance, some special preparation is needed. This may consist of a short talk with the class a day or two before they are to draw the tree, in which the characteristic shape and growth of different trees are discussed in a very simple way. The pupils’ attention may be drawn to the level branches of the pine and the disposition of its masses of foliage in clumps; to the umbrella-shaped top of the elm; to the height and the wide-spreading branches of the maple; and to the great height of the poplar as compared with its width.

If the teacher can sketch rapidly, three or four different trees may be drawn in mass, and the pupils may name these, giving the reason why they think each is the tree they mention. Photographs or other pictures of trees may be put up for examination if the teacher cannot draw, though no other pictures quite take the place of those perhaps far less perfect, which are rapidly sketched before the class. After this general talk on trees, the places where fine poplar trees may be seen are discussed, and the pupils are counselled to choose one of these for study, standing far enough away from it to see its whole shape against the sky or whatever is behind it. It would be a good plan to have them look at a number of poplar trees, trying to see in what ways they are alike.

In order that the pupils may put what they have learned about the tree into definite shape so as to have a clear image of it before proceeding to draw it, questions should be asked of them as to:

1. The height of the trunk compared with the height of the upper part of the tree.

2. The width of the trunk compared with the greatest width of the upper part.

3. The character of the branching.

4. The shape of the whole mass of foliage.


For each pupil a piece of charcoal and a sheet of 6″ by 9″ drawing paper.


The pupils should be asked to place the paper on the desk with the long edge vertical or horizontal, according to the way in which the tree will best fit upon the paper. They may indicate with their hands just how wide and high they intend to make it, for the tree must be well placed and as large as it can be made without having the appearance of being crowded on the paper.

They may then be asked to close their eyes a moment and try to see the tree, after which they should begin to draw it, comparing the drawing from time to time with the image in their minds by closing their eyes to think about it, then correcting any place in which the drawing is not like the picture in the mind of each.

As they work, the teacher should-go about noting mistakes, so that the attention of the class as a whole may be called to these. In order that each pupil may be led to detect and correct his own errors, the drawings should be held at arm’s length, so that they may be compared with the mental image and, as each mistake is mentioned, the pupil should look to see if he has made that mistake and, in case he has, he should at once correct it.

As indicated in previous lessons, the best drawings should be exhibited at the front and, when too much time has not already been used for the lesson, the judgment of the class should be cultivated by allowing the pupils to choose from among the good drawings the one which most resembles the real tree.