Gardening Tips

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Monday, February 27, 2006

The Art of Painting Trees and Shrubs

Trees and shrubs are the most popular subjects in a landscape oil painting. They can be painted in detail or out of focus, and do not have any set shape. That is the best thing about doing them. Their shapes are pretty much a free-hand style. The only thing to remember is with a foliage tree or shrub, you must use at least two or three colors. The first color is the background color, or the back of the tree or shrub. The second color can be either your highlight or a secondary color. The third color is the highlight color. Now how to apply the colors differs between artist. I work on a wet canvass (a wet primer is added to the canvass before painting.) so my paints are not as creamy as most. The reason for this is I have a better time getting my second colors to stick to the first by thinning out the mix. Now lets take a look at the base colors.

For creating base colors or background colors for a tree or shrub it is important to remember this is the back of the tree. This color should be quite a bit darker than your highlights. Here are some of my favorites. For a spring background color I mix Prussian blue, and thalo green. It should lean a little towards the green color but this should make a good dark color due to the Prussian blue. If you want it darker add either a little black, brown, or alizorin crimson to the mix.

For fall colors it is a little different. I have seen brown used as a background color but to me it doesn't look realistic. Here are some ideas. For a yellow tree start out with black and white to create grey and add raw sienna or dark sienna. To this add a small amount of cadmium yellow medium. For an orange tree start out with the same grey mix and add burnt sienna. For a red tree use alizorine crimson with a small amount of bright red. Even green has a different shade in the fall. Use white, raw sienna, and phtalo blue.

For the second colors it is a little easier. For spring green I like to use a mix of white, phtalo blue and cadmium yellow to give me a slightly colder color green. For a summer green I use cadmium yellow with sap green. Use more yellow than the green but the color should not be extreamly light in color. Fall colors can be made easily. For a yellow tree use Cadmium yellow and white, For a red tree use Bright red, white, and a small amount of Cadmium orange to warm it up a little. Orange trees can be made with Cadmium orange and a little white.

Now these colors can be used as the highlight colors or as a secondary color. The only thing to remember is to apply the colors where you think light will hit the tree or shrub. Another thing to remember is not to apply these colors at random. Create shapes using the colors, this will only give the painting more interest.

The last set of colors are for bright highlights. On a green tree or shrub use a little yellow, On a yellow tree add more white. On an orange tree use a little yellow (use sparingly) or add a little more white to your orange highlight color. On a red tree add a little orange color (use sparingly) or add more white to the red color mix. Remember these highlights are where the sun will strike on the tree and should be of a warm color.

In later articles I will discuss how to actually paint different types of trees.

Samuel Jaycox is a landscape artist in Pawtucket Rhode Island. He also runs an online art store where one of his paintings can be seen (a swan swimming in a small river)for a look come to


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