Hints and Tips on Painting Trees

I’m always learning as an artist. One thing I’m learning at the moment which I thought I’d share with you is about where to start laying your colours down on a canvas. You see, when I first started painting on canvas with acrylics a few years ago, I treated them very much like watercolours, where you tend to start with lighter shades and build up the darker shades later. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but you lose some of the richness of the paint. What I’m trying to do nowadays is to start with the mid tones – in the photo of the tree below that’s the mid greens. 

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Then I add the darkest tones for the depth of shadow (and by the way, try not to use black as this flattens the painting – it’s better to mix using dark blue and dark brown such as Prussian blue and burnt umber.

Finally, I add the areas of lightest tone – the yellows of the highlighted leaves. 

It’s about training your eye to see whatever you’re painting in terms of areas of light and shade – it may even help to print a black and white copy of your source photo so you can really see where the areas of darkest and lightest tone are:

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So you end up with something that looks solid and natural:

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The last stage is to paint in the little glimpses of blue sky through some of the foliage – mainly because I’m not usually organised enough to leave spaces in the tree when I’m first painting it for the sky background to show through!

I hope that’s helpful!

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