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Have you ever started painting a watercolor landscape and hit a wall when adding in trees and/or plants? Do you find you start your trees well but frequently end up overworking them, producing lifeless and flat green blobs? Are you getting tired of always painting the same kind of tree?
Welcome to the second part of the Watercolor Landscapes for Beginners Series!
Trees and plants are, arguably, the most important parts of any landscape (at least this is the case when there are no other living subjects included). For this reason, it's a great idea to make time to study them before actually attempting to paint a composition of this kind.
This blog post includes a video in which I walk you through six different tree studies. Throughout these time-lapses, I share the steps I go through when painting trees using watercolors, as well as all of my personal tips and tricks. With practice, you'll be painting believable trees that have life to them and add areas of interest in your paintings.
Before you begin drawing or painting trees, or anything else for that matter, there's nothing better than going out and observing what the subject actually looks like in real life. Go for a walk and take some photos at your nearest park. At the very least, look for high quality photographs online and create a little collection.
Take a moment to observe their shape, the variety of hues and textures they can have, the shadows created by them and within them, etc. Make notes! Attempt to paint them in plein air someday!
Check out my blog post titled Why Sketchbooks are Essential Tools for Artists and a Few Usage Tips to learn how I use my sketchbooks to improve my artistic skills everyday (even when I have small amounts of time).
1. Loosen up your hand by practicing the "scribbling" technique using your paintbrush and a piece of scrap watercolor paper.
2. Create your initial pencil sketch lightly, focusing on the largest shapes of the tree.
3. Create your lightest and most translucent hues using a mixture of yellows and greens.
4. Begin placing your lightest layers of paint by using light scribbling motions and making sure to leave white areas between your clumps of leaves. Remember, you are NOT painting each individual leaf, but creating the illusion of leaves!
5. Once you have placed your initial lightest values of yellow and/or green, "drop" darker hues onto certain areas. Allow wet-on-wet effects to happen. Don't go overboard! Set aside and allow to dry. At this point only lightest to mid-green values should be placed.
6. Create your second set of paint hues (mid-tones to darker values) using the previous colors, but adding in dark blue and brown. Abstain from using black.
7. Start placing your mid-tones to darkest values deliberately. Remember the point is not to cover up previous layers of paint, but only to add darker values where needed. *Use your pictures to conclude how much of your darkest values should be added and where (remember these are mostly where cast shadows would be between your clumps of leaves-no more!).
While you should never be afraid of adding dark values to a watercolor painting, you should add them carefully and only where needed.
8. Paint your tree trunk and branches, using your rag or paper towel to lift some paint in certain areas to create texture and a sense of form.
Specific colors I used to paint these trees:
Cadmium Yellow Light
Permanent Green Olive
Were you able to follow along with some of these studies? What was the most difficult tree for you to paint and which was the easiest? Leave a comment below!
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