|'Sentinel of the Marsh' 9x12 pastel ©Karen Margulis|
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You either love it or dread it. Painting trees that is. For some artists, painting trees comes so easily. Or maybe it just looks that way. For others it can be a struggle. How to get the right shape. How to make the colors interesting. How to add the right amount of detail. It is all to easy to overwork a tree or have trees that look like they were painted by children.
I am usually in the 'dread painting trees' category. I typically avoided making trees the focus of any painting. Perhaps it goes back to my first pastel teacher Marsha Savage. Marsha paints trees beautifully. Have a look at her work here. I knew I could never paint them as well as she does so I just avoided them.
But this is a bad example for me to set for my students so I am slowly incorporating trees into my paintings. And I am practicing. That is always the best way to get better at something. I will not let trees scare me! In fact on my trip to Pawleys I sought out trees to paint!
|plein air pastel from Pawleys Island sold|
This week we are working on trees in my classes and I invite you to follow along. Today I'll share some tips I have discovered to help simplify the subject of trees. Tomorrow I will share an exercise that will help us all get more tree painting practice under our belts. And if you are one of those artists who love painting trees and paint them with ease, please feel free to share your advice!
Ideas for Simplifying Trees
- Look at the overall shape of the tree. Is it oval? Square? Round? Triangular? Does it have lots of little section of foliage? Block in this big simple shape.
- Pay attention to the silhouette of the tree....If it was just a bog flat shape what would the outer edges look like? (more on this tomorrow)
- Make sure the shape you block in for the tree is an interesting shape. You want an interesting positive shape as well as have the shape around the tree (negative space) be interesting.
- Don't let the symbol your brain has for a tree cause you to make a plain, boring and orderly shape.
- Observe carefully. Be a good observer of trees. Pay attention to how they grow, what kind of foliage do they have? Where do their branches come from?
- Practice, Practice and practice some more. Don't avoid what frustrates you. (but don't obsess about it either, balance practice with difficult subjects with subjects you have success with.)