Sometimes I like to just do exercises. It takes me in a direction I wouldn't normally go, and it sharpens my skills. Athletes do push ups, musicians do scales... etc. Right now, I am doing the exercises in a classic book, The Elements of Drawing, by John Ruskin, first written in 1904! The exercises are surprisingly challenging.
This tree was drawn from life, and took about an hour. But it caused me to observe the patterns made by the branches. If you were asked to draw a tree from your imagination, would you draw something like this? I sure wouldn't. I would draw something more "artistic" looking.
The tree is in front of the gas company office. It sits in a line with other Monterey cypresses that all look healthy. In fact, the others have so much foliage the branches aren't visible.This tree's trunk is scarred from much pruning, as if the owners have tried to save it many times over the years. It's easy to get anthropomorphic about trees. I started feeling like I was memorializing it by doing the drawing!
If you want to try reading Ruskin's book, get the illustrated edition, which follows the link. Some of the other editions are very irritating to read, because the author refers to artworks that aren't illustrated.