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Friday, November 16, 2018

Tips for Simplifying Tree Paintings

'Lady in Red'            9x12            pastel            ©Karen Margulis
available $175
 It suddenly hit me yesterday when preparing a lesson on painting trees. 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.

Breaking up the distant tree line with the sky

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.)

Join us over on my Patreon page for many more tips, video demos and challenge exercises. The month of November is Tree Month!

Painting the negative spaces AKA sky holes 

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Vanessa said...

I'm one of those people who run away from trees and all things to do with foliage unless it is a macro image where I can see every detail. I'm not sure why but I always feel overwhelmed and pretty intimidated when I attempt to do landscape paintings. Out of hait, I am always trying to see and replicate the detail in everything as oppose to giving the impression of it alone. Really appreciate your tips! I'll have to try this out on a small study.

Rita said...

When I am watching television or just sitting, I like to use tracing paper to trace around shapes in photos or in art magazines. It helps my mind to get in the simplification mode and
also helps to see the value patterns.