The Sibley Guide to Trees

The Sibley Guide to TreesAutumn is a great time to look at trees, and a new tree guide was published last year by David Allen Sibley, best known for his bird books. The Sibley Guide to Trees is more than just an identification guide, it is a veritable encyclopedia covering over 600 kinds of trees found in North America. Best of all, the book doesn’t use photographs, it uses illustrations, all painted by Sibley himself.

Why take the time to draw each tree and leaf rather than photograph it? As the author explains in the video below, an artist has the ability to create a more representative image by combining many examples, and can show the object in the best light for the viewer to see and understand.  The artist can also emphasize certain details, allowing us to see things in a new way.

Art and science were far more closely aligned years ago, in the days before cameras, when the only way to document the world was to draw it. But the benefits of drawing have not gone away. To draw something is to know it better, and a drawing can often teach us things about the world that a photograph cannot.

Sample page from The Sibley Guide to Trees
Sample page from The Sibley Guide to Trees

The illustrations by David Allen Sibley for his tree guide (as with his bird books) are accurate and precise, yet also have an artistic flair all their own. They capture the essence and texture of the natural world. And he doesn’t just depict trees from a distance, but also shows the individual leaves, the bark, the seeds, the flowers, and whichever details are most pertinent to that tree. And the pages are large enough to let you really see the art. The text perfectly complements and explains the pictures, and both work seamlessly together.

Below are some additional links to learn about the author and his work:

David Allen Sibley official website

The author’s information about trees

An interview with the author about his tree book

Another interview with the author about his books

Finally, here is the author talking about how he created his tree guide, and why he prefers illustrations rather than photographs.

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