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Monday, March 23, 2015

Painting a Dogwood Tree in Three Easy Steps

'The Queen of Spring'            8x10            pastel              ©Karen Margulis

My dogwood trees won't bloom. They are about five years old and every spring I hope they will but so far nothing but nice green leaves.  I will have to be satisfied with painting dogwoods in bloom. Flowering trees can be a challenge to paint. They are like giant bouquets of flowers.....plenty of details to get caught up in. It is so easy to get carried away and end up with a tree covered in dots and blobs of color.

I have simplified my dogwood trees into three easy steps.

1.  Paint the trunks. Dogwoods have trunks with character. The are lyrical and irregular. I use a dark blue or purple pastel and draw some lyrical painterly lines for the trunks. I make sure they get thinner as they get taller.

2. Block in the MASS OF FOLIAGE. I treat the flowers as a mass. I don't paint individual blooms. I put down the darkest colors I see in the mass. The flowers are typically a creamy white to pink. They may appear pure white especially against the dark backdrop of the woods....but the flowers are not really pure white.

I didn't use pure white for my flowers. I started with violets and dull greens of a medium value. As I developed the masses I used lighter values such as pale yellows and pinks. I also develop the background at the same time using the background colors to carve away at the flower masses making sky holes.

3. Refine the Tree. I continue to add lighter and lighter values to the flower masses. I am still keeping the large masses intact. I am careful to leave some of the dark showing. I am trying to create the form of the trees. I also work on the foreground bushes and add a few hits of azaleas.

Since I am working on Canson paper and I don't have a lot of tooth, I decide to use some workable fixative so I could build more layers. I finish the tree with some dancing flower shapes...these are my brightest and heaviest marks. I place them carefully so that they move they eye around the painting. I don't paint every flower. I want to leave something to the viewer's imagination.

The pastels I used for the dogwood blossoms

My initial block in...keeping shapes simple

Beginning to add the lighter values and creating volume in the tree
 Besides painting dogwoods I spent the day at the computer making my first installment of my video blog or vlog. I plan to share it tomorrow so don't miss my premiere!


Judy Baker said...

Beautiful dogwood. Can't wait to see your vlog. I look forward to your posts every day. Thanks a bunch!

Joan said...

Beautiful painting, Karen. Hang in there. It took our pink dogwood 10 years to bloom and then voila! Last year it was covered in blossoms.

robertsloan2art said...

Gorgeous dogwoods! Thanks for showing your stages. I love the shapes of those trunks, they were the first thing I noticed. So beautiful.

Interesting about flowering trees. You're right too. A lot of times the flowers are so intense they are just like foliage but another hue. There were a whole lot of Bradford pears and crepe myrtles in Arkansas when I lived there, and New Orleans had crepe myrtles all over the place. San Francisco has a lot of flowering trees but more of them have scattered flowers in foliage like magnolias than the all-over effect of dogwood or crepe myrtle.

Looking forward to your vlog! I didn't comment yesterday but I'm definitely enjoying your previous videos so I know this will rock!