Saturday, November 05, 2016

From the Archives: Painting the Glow of a Red Autumn Tree


'Dressed for Fall'                8x10              pastel              ©Karen Margulis
available $145
I love red.  I have a little maple tree outside of my studio. It turns the most brilliant red in Fall.  I can't wait to paint it this year.  But red is hard to paint. I want to paint a red tree that glows.  I want the tree to look like it's on fire.  But so often when we paint red trees they look dull and washed out.  How do we get them to glow?

Just think Sunlight!  Turn towards the sun!

My chart illustrating how to make foliage glow
When we are painting foliage that is getting sunlight we often think we should paint the sunlit leaves lighter than the foliage in shadow.  So if we have a green tree we may choose a light green (think mint) for the sunny leaves.  If we are painting red foliage we might choose a pale red or a pinkish red.

Now our tree looks like it has volume and shape. It has a light side and a dark side. But something is missing. It looks pale and boring. How can we make it look lit by the sun?

The sun is our answer. The sun is a warm light...most of the time. If we want the foliage to look sunny then choose a color that is WARMER and not just lighter.  As our foliage moves out of the shadows and into the sun use progressively warmer colors.  Note: The sun is warm when it is low in the sky...early morning and late afternoon. During this time the light is warm and the shadows are cool...more on this later.

Our red tree then will start out with cool brick red and even purple foliage in the shadows. As the foliage gets closer to the sunlit side, we can use warmer reds. And in the sunniest places we can even use an red orange to orange.

Try a sample...paint two red shapes. Use a pale red/pink on one and an orange red on the other. See the difference a little warmth makes?

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