Wolf Tree

I came upon this old, spreading White Pine while walking in the woods last weekend. It’s huge base branched into multiple massive trunks. Known as a wolf tree, this giant of the forest began its life growing in pasture long ago. With space to spread out and plenty of sunlight, its lower limbs grew outward and upward. Years later, when the pasture was let go, other trees grew around it, creating woodland. A century ago, foresters thought old trees like this were preying on forest resources and, like a wolf, should be culled. It is now widely known that they provide shelter for many species of birds and forest animals. I had my eye out for owls, but instead saw two red-tailed hawks fly off, startled by my presence.

Tips and Techniques– I managed this ink sketch with a Micron 02 pen and one glove off. The woods were entirely still, but for soft snow, just beginning to fall. Working outside directly from nature brings a freshness to the drawing that working from a photograph simply cannot match. If you are interested in trying to sketch outside in winter, think about choosing a subject that you can get down on paper in a half-hour to 45 minutes. I also recommend overdressing for the cold. Even if you are warm while walking or wandering, once you stop, extra layers will buy you time to sketch for a longer period of time.

23 Comments on “Wolf Tree

  1. Great advice, and exquisite detail! Thanks for sharing the history of this awesome tree – almost made me feel like I could see it in its original wide-open space! I’m so glad it’s still standing there.

  2. Thank you, Jean – I love the storytelling as much as your drawing. Good tips for those venturing out in winter to sketch. Too much rain here in PNW right now to sketch in the woods. I recently read a wonderful book “The Hidden Life of Trees”.

  3. This is lovely, you can feel the age of the tree. I like how you have just selected that part of the tree, I tend to attempt too much and get lost in the branches, the light yellow also is just the right shade to convey the winter season.

  4. I so enjoy your posts, and look forward to them. Very interesting and informative. Tess

  5. First, let me just say that I almost see a howling wolf in the base of the tree! I once frightened myself when a pair of owls (who knows what they were) were flushed from an old tree I went to inspect. And lastly, as someone previously mentioned, I enjoy your “storytelling” as much as the drawings and lettering.

  6. Having little online time, I don’t comment often, but every single post (of yours) is a joy to admire! You have such a lovely touch, sensitive and so connected to nature. Thank you for the time it takes to share your world with us! Lisa

  7. Beautiful drawing Jean! It inspires me to draw the wolf tree in our yard, at least 75 years old, a willow that has an enormous trunk and three tree-sized limbs. I’ll send you a picture!

  8. Hmmm reading your description of your wold tree, I realize our willow has a massive base with three large trunks, not limbs,
    emerging from the base.

    • Hi Sue— the definition is really more about the tree having grown up in open pasture that later reverted to woods, such that the giant tree is surrounded by a much younger forest.

  9. I don’t think I ever heard that term – old close-to-the-land terms are so interesting. It’s good this tree survived. You know I love the form, Jean! 😉 And I’m so impressed that you were out drawing in the snow. 🙂

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