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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Simplifying Trees

'Secret Grove'                8x10               pastel              ©Karen Margulis
painting available $145
 It suddenly hit me yesterday when teaching a private pastel class. We often make things more complicated than they have to be. From everything to setting up and starting a painting to the actual painting process is always a challenge to keep things simple.

Take trees for example. I avoided painting trees for years because I believed them to be too hard....too complicated. I didn't know how to simplify them. I didn't know how to simplify anything involved with painting. I wish I had pictures of the huge cart of supplies I would haul to pastel class! Live and learn!

Trees don't have to be complicated. They are just shapes after all. Once I learned how to simplify a tree into a basic shape and then carve and mould it like it was a lump of clay, painting trees became doable. Now I enjoy painting trees. Starting and keeping things simple has been the key.

2.5 x 3.5 color study   pastel

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 big flat shape what would the outer edges look like? 
  • 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.)

Painting notes:  Today's painting is on Uart 500 with a value underpainting/alcohol wash. I used Terry Ludwig pastels. The texture is the result of workable fixative.


Marsha Savage said...

Karen, very good bullet list for simplifying trees... and anything for that matter. You learned about trees very well!

Karen said...

Thanks Marsha! I had the best teacher that's why!! Can't wait for our workshop!!

robertsloan2art said...

Great lesson and I love your example trees. Part of your method intrigues me, how you'll let them start as blobby uninteresting shapes and carve into them to make them more interesting. I'm still trying to master decent sky holes. Sometimes the real trees have a spatter of even small dots of them and no interesting sky hole shapes.

Colleen Brown said...

Great info Karen! Much appreciated and can't wait to do some exercises!


Joanne Baum, PhD., LCSW, CAC III said...

How do I change this do I am simply Jo Baum instead of all my credentials after my name? I love what u said here about trees and would appreciate if u would show the steps to simplifying from under painting od shape to a few of you layering until finished product. Barbara Sullivan introduced me to your blog and I hookef. Thank you for sharing so much and so beautifully. Jo

jojo said...

de l'harmonie dans ceci! malgré les difficultés aux départ !