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Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Tip for Painting Bare Winter Trees

'Welcome Winter'        6x14       pastel       ©Karen Margulis
Trees are hard to paint.  I hear this from my students all the time.  I think sometimes we make it more difficult than it has to be.  Take trees in the winter landscape. I am referring to those bare branched deciduous trees.  You would think that they would be easier to paint than a tree full of leaves. After all it is just a few branches which can be easily drawn in with a hard pastel, right?

But it is the bare branched, lacy looking tree that can be the most challenging. Why? Because we try too hard to put in every branch and twig and we end up something looking like a stick poking out of the snow.

Another challenge is to get the bare trees to look like they are part of the landscape and not 'stuck' on the background. Again, we sometimes try to hard and spend all of our efforts painting the tree and branches and forget about the background. Then try to put it in around the tree. Challenging!

How can we avoid some of these winter tree challenges? Here is a tip for dealing with those bare winter trees.


  • For those lacy looking bare branched trees in the distance:  It is easier to suggest the laciness. It is all an illusion. I like to scumble a nice muted distance color such as a muted purple or grayed green up into the sky. Then I pull some of the sky color on top of the trees muting them even more. The next step is to take the sky color and put in a few well placed sky holes to break up the  mass of the tree. Finally I take a sharp edge of a pastel or a Nupastel and draw in a trunk and a few very light branches. I use very little pressure because I want these branches to be light and airy.

Check out the quick video of this technique over on my Patreon Page www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

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