Lines from nature – The beech tree

Parallel lines observed in the nature, realism and abstraction

In this impulse I would like to think with you about a tree, namely the beech tree. Not so much in its great expanse, but to take a closer look at the trunk, to study the bark in detail.

The beech is a tree that grows mainly in North America, Europe, and parts of Asia. Wherever winters are not too cold and summers not too hot and, above all, not too dry. Beech trees like to grow in mixed forests. They are certainly one of our most common trees. The beech is a very old plant with a long history, that can be traced thanks to fossil findings. Its history goes back to the Cretaceous period, about 84 to 72 million years ago. That was about the time when the dinosaurs were alive and beech trees are at least as old. They are eyewitnesses from these ancient times. They have something in their consciousness that is much older than what we as humans bear in our hidden consciousness.

The beech is characterized by its wonderful durability. People also appreciate its calorific value and use beech logs for wood burning stoves, as they give the best and longest fire. Beech is also in great demand as a construction timber, as pulpwood or as wood for furniture, toys and parquet floors, because it is very durable. Beech trees are seen as a symbol of life and vitality. They are just unshakable trees.

The tree itself has always been viewed as a higher being. As if there were an invisible power within this tree. That’s why the beech tree has been revered across many, many cultures. Until the 19th century, you were even punished if you damaged such a tree. To damage a beech tree was absolutely impossible. In earlier centuries, religious services were celebrated under beech trees because due to their majesty and their canopy of leaves they were considered natural temples. However, the services held under these beech temples have their origin in much earlier rituals. Pre-Christian sacrificial sites had always been under these wonderful trees, which were also called “sacred groves”.

Beech forests were considered as halls, natural temple halls with pointed arch vaults and a solemn semi-dark atmosphere, which was then probably formative for Gothic architecture. Goethe compared the architecture of the Strasbourg Cathedral to a highly exalted, widespread tree of God, with which he referred to the beech tree. The sublime and solemn impression a beech forest can convey, through the silver-gray trunks that reach so high and appear so mighty, and with this wonderful green canopy of leaves, or with yellow and brownish leaves in autumn, in winter with the beautiful branches, that is a divine appearance. In the Celtic tree calendar, the beech has its holiday on December 22nd at the winter solstice.
Beech is called “Buche” in German, so the German word for letter – “Buchstabe” – probably comes from the fact that the Germanic people used to carve runes into small sticks of beech wood. These sticks were used as oracles for important decisions. The word “book” – or “Buch” in German – also derives from “Buchstaben”, letters that used to be carved into beech blocks.

That were some little stories about the beech. Of course, there would be many more botanical terms and subtleties, but we want to turn to the aesthetic. Let’s take a closer look at the beech trunk. There you can see many lines, and this is of course a stimulating starting point for a line study. A line study that comes from the beech tree.
As you can see, nature is an important source of inspiration and offers us many ideas. You can study this tree trunk to draw a realistic line structure with many small events. Draw how the lines move differently and delicately, how they’re stronger or less strong, how they have slight movements or sometimes bulges from the bark itself. You can study all this carefully, using light and dark and the vibration of your lines. Take a good look at the tree bark. On your drawing sheet, make either a square or a rectangle, so you define a section on your sheet. Within that square, draw your lines through from side to side. Thus, you define and create a section of this bark, of this tree trunk.

I wish you a lot of strength, persistence, and joy in this exercise. Remember the possibility of working out delicate lines and at the same time very strong lines with your pencil. Remember the fine distances between the individual lines, through which you can include the light. In this way, through the completely realistic study of these lines, you will at the same time create a wonderful and abstract drawing.
Before you begin to draw, sit down well at your drawing place, prepare yourself well, so that you feel well and that you know, drawing keeps you young. Through drawing we communicate much better than with long, long stories. You will learn much more about the soul of the master. And you can talk about your own soul so beautifully through the line. And every viewer then resonates with every single drawing and thus with the drawing artist.