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What is the Best Way to Paint Trees

Stefan Baumann

Blog #1 of 17




October 7th, 2019 - 01:17 PM

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What is the Best Way to Paint Trees

“What is the Best Way to Paint Trees?”

I invite you to listen to my podcast, Number 22 Just click the Podcast photo to the right

This week’s campfire was amazing. We had lots of rain on Friday at The Grand View Ranch, and by Saturday the ground was dry in time to enjoy a campfire with friends and discuss art. After we were seated around the fire pit, the topic concerning how to paint trees came up, and several students wanted to know “What is the best way to paint trees?” Because I grew up in Lake Tahoe, California, I have a strong connection and love of trees and I really enjoy painting them. I believe that the way an artist paints trees says a lot about the artist’s skills as well as the artist’s ability to observe the structure and essence of a tree.

When painting trees in nature, it is most important to capture the life of the tree rather than just the texture of the trunk and foliage. When I look at a tree, I notice its energy, how it shoots up out of the ground, and how the branches reach upward to the sky. I notice the elasticity of the limbs indicating the tree’s strength and growth, and how the limbs sometime pull down to the earth and flow away from the tree. I observe the tops of the trees and notice the movement and energy of the wind and atmosphere that exists high in the treetops.

Trees provide a strong vertical compositional element that is useful when painting a landscape with many horizontal lines. Trees provide a spirit in a painting that has none. The trunk gradually tapers upwards to the highest crown. The foliage is heavier on the side of the tree that has the most sun. A tree’s branches taper from the largest part of the trunk to the smallest branch on top the canapé. Trees in a painting should always be firmly planted in the composition. They should not grow into the picture from the bottom of the canvas, but instead, planted in the foreground and grow out towards the top of the canvas with branches hanging in the painting from either side.

The location of tree, the altitude and conditions it lives in contributes to the condition of the tree. If the tree lives in a high-wind area like a beach or edge of a cliff, stress may have stunted or dwarfed the tree. If the area has snowfall, the tree branches and trunks may be thicker to withstand the weight of snow. Trees that grow higher in elevation are smaller than trees found in lush meadows and may have a larger trunk and more branches than foliage creating a bonsai appearance. We frequently look at a tree from underneath the tree where most of the branches are visible. The higher the branch, the more we see the underside of the limbs. Our relationship to the horizon is one of the keys to painting great art.

Painting the mass of a tree is more important than painting the details. Start with a medium value and establish the form of the tree. Then introduce a dark value in the shadows. Next, add the effect of light. The only detail that a viewer can see exists in the area between the medium color value and the light. It is in this transition that one can see both detail and local color. Next, “sky holes” can be painted to open up the center of the mass of the tree. These holes must be placed carefully and should not to block the trunk or branches. Small holes must be at least a value darker than the sky itself and should vary in intensity and values so that not all the holes look alike in color or shape.

Trees are vertical, so the effects of light on them are darker than the horizontal values of a road or a field. As trees recede into the background of a painting, the values become lighter and the temperature of the color becomes cooler, making trees in the distance bluer than trees in the foreground.

Artists left their studios and began painting outdoors so they could carefully observe nature with their own eyes and paint what they saw. They took time to study the attributes of the landscape and then sketched their detailed observations in their Sketchbooks. When painting trees in nature, it is important to include small details like broken limbs, squirrel holes, and missing bark that tell the story of the tree, its history, and its place in a landscape. Without these details, it will look like a portrait of an old woman who has no wrinkles. The tree may be painted to look pretty, but the result may not be interesting and may not reveal the tree’s story of perseverance and survival.

A competent plein air artist strives to master the art of painting trees. If you want to take your painting to the next level, look closer at your trees and see the possibilities to improving them, and then master the art of painting them. By carefully observing nature with your own eyes, you will be able to see, record, and paint life-like effects that add authentic and intriguing details that capture the imagination of the viewer.

If you want to paint trees with me please consider joining us at our workshop May 18,19,20 2018 It will be an experience that will change your life. Call me 800-511-1337

The eyes of the world are waiting to see what you have to say

-------Stefan Baumann

I have coached many students over the years. My goal as a coach is to help students discover their own style by instructing with a method that allows them to grow as they are. If you want increase your knowledge and skill to bring your art to the next level, I invite you to watch my YouTube videos, consider phone coaching with me, or attend a workshop in Mt. Shasta where we discuss art, passion and life with other artists around the campfire. All the information is on my website, www.stefanbaumann.com.

Call me for information on workshops or coaching 415-606-9074

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