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Sunday, May 04, 2014

Do You Have Phylliosis? The Cure for Spotty Trees

'On the Edge of Tomorrow'          8x10            pastel           ©Karen Margulis
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 I fight the urge. Sometimes it happens despite my efforts.  Phylliosis. This is a serious condition characterized by the urge to paint too many leaves on a tree. Artists who suffer from phylliosis tend to get caught up in trying to paint every leaf on a tree or shrub. It can progress quickly. Trees that begin as a simple shape can rapidly evolve into a spotty overly busy mass. Nothing is left to the viewer's imagination.
A variation of this condition occurs when an artist doesn't begin the tree with a simple shape and instead blocks in every spot of dark and light they see. Both can lead to busy and spotty trees.

Remember this: You can't hang your leaves on spots of dark. You need something solid to support them. and.... Don't forget to leave a little mystery.

I have a cure for Phylliosis.  It comes in a can!  Read on for details.

detail of tree with suggested leaves

Part of the cure for Phyllosis begins with a big strong and simple shape.

  • Begin painting the tree by observing the overall shape or silhouette. Squint. What value is the shape....block it in with a mass of the main value you see....avoid blocking in each small bit of light and dark.  You need a big simple mass to start with.
  • Next begin to carve into the tree shape with the background color (sky holes) Remember that the silhouette of the tree tells the viewer what kind of tree it is. Use middle and lighter values to create the volume of the tree. Add blocks of the lighter values where the tree would be receiving light....not all over the tree! Think before you mark!
  • Next it is time to add in some leaf shapes. Only a few are needed to help describe the tree. But here is where Phyllosis often kicks in.....before we know it we have overdone the leaf shapes!  This is when I take out my can of workable fixative and spray the whole tree. This will darken and fix the pastel layers effectively simplifying all of the busyness.  It is now easy to scumble some pastel over the simplified areas leaving a glaze of green that SUGGESTS leaves. No more phyllosis!


Judy Baker said...

Thank you, Karen. You always provide so much good, interesting information. I look forward to your blog every day! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!

Diane said...

Thank you Karen. This was a very timely post for me as I am currently doing a tree painting and something does seem off. I have never used fixative but am going to give it a try. I assume you only spray the tree area you want to fix or do you spray the entire painting?

Karen said...

Diane, spray only the area you want the texture (the tree) Don't spray too much. You don't want it too wet and drippy or you will make the surface too slick. Just a light spray. Make sure you get the right pressure so you don't get spots or dribble....practice first!

HappyPainter212 said...

What a marvelous tip for trees. While I am not painting one now I feel that I should just to try this out. No more lollipop trees!