Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Paint a Tree...Made Easy

Eucalyptus Trees, very large and very cool to paint. Well, in California they are painted all the time. I'm going to show you how to paint one...why? Because if you can paint one of these you can pretty much do most trees in your paintings. The principle is the same. Basically, a tree is a large mass of darks...mid-values...highlights...branches & skyholes and in that order. Trees are not big green pom poms with a brown trunk popping out of the bottom. That's what you paint in the 5th grade. We are going to paint a killer eucalyptus tree that will look great and improve your tree work....thus improving your paintings and skill level.
There are other trees that look quite differently but can be approached in very much the same manner as we are going to approach this Euc. So, here we go........


This is a painting I've just finished but took the time to photograph my tree work to help others that are interested. I've finished my sky work first...I left the area where the tree would be so I don't have to paint over wet paint. If you sketch your tree don't worry about a little sky paint going over the lines...that's ok.
Step 1 Blocking in the Darks...
First I will mix a very dark mix of French Ultramarine Blue/Alizarin Crimson and a dab of Cadmium Yellow Pale. This is my dark mix but you can use whatever you'd like to get a dark mix of green or reddish green or even blue. I go for reddish green. I add Copal Painting Medium made by Grumbacher to all of my mixes. I usually add 5 or 6 drops off of my palette knife or just pour the drops onto the paint mix. You can add as much as you want but remember, the more you add the more watery & transparent it becomes...like a wash. This medium aids in drying time of oil paint and leaves a nice shine to your paint instead of the usual flat look of dired oil paint.
I can either block in the entire tree or just the areas where the dark show through the mids. I've done both so experiment and see which method you like. Here, I've darkend in the entire tree area.

Now, on this tree I am going to have the upper half of the tree catching more light and the lower section in shadows. I like the darks here but I want the bottom really dark so I'm going to add a little more of my dark mix down there to darken that part more. That gets me to this point...

That look pretty good so lets get started adding the mids....

Step 2 Adding the Mid Values...

...or Middle values which are a lower value green mix. In other words trees are like dark green, green and yellow but we adjust all that depending on the tree. Since there are all of these color variations with trees I just call them darks, mids and highlights. My mid green is going to be the same color combination as the darks mix but with less Alizarin and more Cad Yellow Pale. Here is what it looks like as we begin...

I began by painting thicker mids at the top of the tree and thinner towards the bottom with a light touch of the brush. Most of the mids will be covered by highlights but you can choose to leave as much of your mids showing as you like. The mids here will show as a slight ring around my highlights.

Step 3..Adding Highlights...

Here you can see how I have blended the highlight mix to the sunlit area. This mix is the same as before but with more Cad Yellow Pale. I faded my highlights from top to bottom and left to right. My light sorce is from the left so I'm leaving the darker colors to suggest shade on the right side of the tree. Step 4 Skyholes and Trunks...

After the foliage is done we need to add some light peeking through the trees and to hep us shape our tree better. I use just a slightly darker shade of my sky mix to add skyholes. For turnks and branches I've just added light strokes with white and a bit of my dark mix added.

and now the trunks and branches...


The only thing I do after this step is to go around and tweak the tree up...a dab of color altered here and there, some edge work etc...just little things to make it look good.

I think that's a pretty convincing Eucalyptus tree...not the pom pom type of Euc, more the bush looking one that my neighbor has. I have both on my property. So, these are not as hard as you might have thought. Remember, darks, mids, highlights, skyholes and trunks...that's it. Below is how the tree looks in the competed painting....Hope you got something out of this and give it a try.

"Prelude To Evening"

9"x12"

4 comments:

maggiestacyk said...

Hi Ron,

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I was just searching on the best way to paint trees especially eucalyptus. You must have esp. Thanks for being so generous with your knowledge. A beautiful tree & beautiful painting. You make me want to go out & paint!

Maggie

maggiestacyk said...

Hi again ...

Forgot to ask about your addition of Copal Painting Medium. I am new to oils (used acrylics many years ago) so am unaware of this product. Do you (& other Plein Air artist) use this product in all of your paintings? What is the dry time? I think I'll go to our local art store & pick some up and experiment). It is so great to be able to have other artists answer such questions instead of stores where they're just interested in selling a product!

Maggie

Ron Guthrie said...

Hi Maggie,
Thanks for the good words...glad if it helps out with your work. Inspiration is invaluable! Using Copal is fairly common with a lot of PA painters. You can also use Liquin. Copal will get your paints to tack up way faster than not using it. Depending on how thick you apply your paint and how much copal will vary your drying times. I paint my darks pretty thin so they will get tacky by the end of a day and sometimes dry to touch by the next morning.
If you put it on thin and you have a breeze or full sun you can paint over it using a light touch in an hour or two. You really have to get the feel of it and experiment with how much copal to add.
Another way to paint your darks is to mix them with just turpentine and leave the copal for the next layers....that works great when doing PA.
Ron

Alexandre Jay said...

A great tree tutorial. Always keen to learn how others work, so thanks very much for sharing. :)