In my Online Mentoring class this week I'm demonstrating techniques for painting trees. Trees are like figures, they have a certain anatomy to them and need to be studied not just copied. John Carlson ( John Carlsons Guide to Landscape Painting, a book you need to have if you don't) says: “It is curious how ones feelings about trees change, in proportion to ones appreciation of their importance and dignity as live beings. Trees are individual beings: they can be comic, heroic, tragic to the sensitive, practiced eye of the landscape artist”
There is certain character to trees that we need to capture and it takes a lot of practice and the more you enjoy painting trees the better you will understand them.
This is the reference that I'm using. Its a stand of cotton woods in Tubac AZ where I just finished teaching a plein air workshop. The goal here is to SIMPLIFY. Not just the shape but also the values and color.
The next two stages are spent trying to find the right values to represent the large shapes or planes around the trees. The values have to have the right relationship with each other for the whole painting to work. After the large value relationships are established I can start massing in the tree with the goal of showing the gesture and movement of the tree. Trees are rarely straight theres a lot of movement to them and not just the trunks but how the masses of foliage are shaped and flow through the painting. Its important also to use thick paint, you can't do much with thin paint.
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In images 4 and 5 I'm using positive and negative shapes to give the tree the final shape I want. This is easier to with thick paint. I also am using broken color to break up the larger shapes. I'm careful to use more color changes and not as many value changes which leads to too much detail.
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