by FAS grad Christina Cooper
by FAS grad Pam Rice
by FAS grad Robert Heindel
by FAS grad Charles Reid
by FAS instructor Dolph LeMoult
Trees, like people, are individuals. A maple is different from an elm. A cottonwood is different from an oak. And no two trees of the same species look exactly alike. In painting them, much of your success depends on how carefully you observe. You can always change the shapes and values to suit your own purpose, but a first-hand study of real trees will result in a more convincing painting.
When painting a tree, try to visualize the complete trunk and main branches, even though they may be hidden by foliage. This will help you establish the correct placement for any branches that might show through the leaves.
Distant trees can be painted flat or in detail, depending on their importance or the effect you’re after. But those in the foreground should appear to have depth as well as height and width. This can be done by using light and dark values to represent light and shade.
Foliage is never a solid mass. It should look as though a bird could fly through it. Leave some “sky holes” to achieve this effect—big ones for the big birds, little ones for the little birds!
One way to handle painting foliage is to use the “dry brush” technique, which produces simultaneously the effect of large masses and individual leaves. It’s accomplished by applying the color with the side of a fairly dry brush. The paint is deposited on the ridges of the paper and skips over the depressions. This effect is achieved most easily with a flat watercolor brush.
For a group of distant trees, you can keep them quite simple and yet avoid a flat appearance by giving each tree a slightly different value and color.