This One’s For the Trees

Today I tried out a new technique for painting. It can be used for pretty much any subject, but I mainly wanted to focus on using this technique to get a tree that looked halfway decent. And so that’s precisely what I did.

The technique involves painting dark base layers, then putting a lighter coat on top, and then adding highlights at the end to give depth. Up till now I’ve been doing variations of this as I played around with different approaches, but this is the first time I’ve put emphasis on it. Let’s dive in…

 

First I started off with a background. I wasn't planning on doing an actual painting, and so I almost didn't bother with a background, but I figured it'd be good practice. I went with blue. The sky was my inspiration for it. Next I started the base of my tree. But apparently I didn't wait long enough for the background to dry, so the paint wasn't sticking. I knew I should have skipped the background.

First I started off with a background. I wasn’t planning on doing an actual painting, and so I almost didn’t bother with a background, but I figured it would be good practice. I went with blue. The sky was my inspiration for it.
Next I started the base of my tree. But apparently I didn’t wait long enough for the background to dry, so the paint wasn’t sticking. I knew I should have skipped the background!

Took a 10 minute break so the paint could dry. Then I went back and filled in the tree trunk and branches. It was at this moment when Matthew realized he probably should have added the ground before starting the tree. Too late now. On we go!

Took a 10 minute break so the paint could dry. Then I went back and filled in the tree trunk and branches. I basically used straight up black for this.
It was at this moment when Matthew realized he probably should have added the ground before starting the tree. Too late now. On we go!

Time for some leaves. The technique I was trying today involves starting off with a base dark coat. So I made a very dark green and splattered it on, not too worried about how it looked since I knew I would be covering it up. It's just there to help give depth.

Time for some leaves. The technique I was trying today involves starting off with a base dark coat. So I made a very dark green and splattered it on, not too worried about how it looked since I knew I would be covering it up. It’s just there to help give depth.

While the dark green layer of leaves dried, I went to the dark layer for the trunk and added a layer of lighter brown. For this painting I had a light source in mind coming from the upper right corner, so I wanted everything to be brighter on that side.  After that I added a secondary lighter coat of leaves, letting the left side of the tree remain a little darker for the effect of light.

While the dark green layer of leaves dried, I went to the dark layer for the trunk and added a layer of lighter brown. For this painting I had a light source in mind coming from the upper right corner, so I wanted everything to be brighter on that side.
After that I added a secondary lighter coat of leaves, letting the left side of the tree remain a little darker for the effect of light.

Then one final layer of extra bright leaves to give the illusion of a light source. I think I went a little too heavy with this on the right side...but that's how we learn. Stop judging me!!!

Then one final layer of extra bright leaves to give the illusion of a light source. I think I went a little too heavy with this on the right side…but that’s how we learn. Stop judging me!!!

At this point the tree was basically done, but I didn't want to stop painting. So I added in some grass. Unfortunately since I wasn't planning a whole painting at the start, I didn't have my ground layer defined. It was difficult for me to get a clean line for where the ground ended and they sky began, so I added some trees to help hide my smudges. I'm so clever.

At this point the tree was basically done, but I didn’t want to stop painting. So I added in some grass. Unfortunately since I wasn’t planning a whole painting at the start, I didn’t have my ground layer defined. It was difficult for me to get a clean line for where the ground ended and they sky began, so I added some trees to help hide my smudges. I’m so clever.

Same as with the tree, once I had the base layer of grass, I went back and lightened it, almost to the same color as the bright leaves in the tree to help balance the painting. I left the bottom left corner dark to give the illusion of a shadow being cast by the tree. I'm so clever. Lastly, the ground was still kind of boring so I made some flowers. Then I tried signing my name in the grass, messed it up royally, erased it, and opted for the sky so I could call the painting done and make dinner.

Same as with the tree, once I had the base layer of grass, I went back and lightened it, almost to the same color as the bright leaves in the tree to help balance the painting. I left the bottom left corner dark to give the illusion of a shadow being cast by the tree. I’m so clever.
Lastly, the ground was still kind of boring so I made some flowers. Then I tried signing my name in the grass, messed it up royally, erased it, and opted for the sky so I could call the painting done and make dinner.

 

So there you have it. Probably would have turned out better had I been planning on doing a full scene from the get-go, but I’m pleased with the way the tree turned out – which was my main goal at the outset. I’m definitely going to continue practicing this technique going forward, and you should too. Unless you’re not painting. Then stop it. Just stop it.

Thanks for reading!

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