View Full Version : Home Place Tree in Mist--Help?

03-13-2017, 06:21 PM
Hello, everyone!

Back at Thanksgiving, I snapped a photo of a tree on the corner of my folks' property. There was a mist on the river behind it and the sun was shining through the mist and the tree.

There are a lot of problems with the painting (i.e. what was I thinking to put it in the center of the composition?), but the one that bothers me is...

It's bland. It's better since I worked on it this morning, adding some purple shadows and deep magenta leaves in the tree, but it still is too...meh. And it's the color, not the composition.

I would appreciate anyone who might suggest what is bothering me. I'd like to make this a gift to my folks, but right now I don't want to even sign it until it looks right.


Thanks in advance!


03-13-2017, 10:09 PM
Hard to say....maybe you can show reference photo. It looks good though. Nice sense of light. Maybe the light is too strong, with such a strong cast shadow from the big tree...reads as a bright blue sky rather than sun being partially blocked by mist. Cool looking tree!

03-13-2017, 10:39 PM
Thank you, Ron, for your idea. I will look at it tomorrow with that in mind.

And thank you for the compliments!


CM Neidhofer
03-13-2017, 11:30 PM
Maybe the leaves on the tree need to be brighter?

03-14-2017, 09:08 AM
Christine, thank you for your comment.

The season is fall, and there weren't actually very many leaves left. What color would you suggest? A green might push the painting back into summer a bit...

I'll try a tiny section later today and see what that does.


03-14-2017, 09:32 AM
What about this tree do you love?
What do you want to say about it?
Why is this particular tree special?

Answering those questions will help you to find the focus.

You have built up the background too much. It isn't really important other than to place the tree-as this is supposed to be a specific place. You don't need to show a lot of detail for it to be recognizable. Just suggest it. The house is taking up too much attention which brings me to the most important point...

The tree itself -which is supposed to be the star of the painting- is not very interesting.
Instead of making this just a tree- generic- make it that specific tree.

The way to do this is go back to your reference, slow down, and observe the individual character of the tree. I know it has many more branches and cool shapes than what you have painted. It is unique and beautiful. Right now you have a "tree shape".

If this was my painting, for now I would leave everything else alone except the tree, and really work it down to fine detail in the branches. Then it will be the star it deserves to be and everything else will be secondary, including the house, which is what you want. :)

Donna T
03-14-2017, 11:04 AM
I'd like to see the reference, too, even if the camera probably made the tree way too dark. Great advice from Stapeliad; make it about the things that most impressed you when you first saw this scene - the mist and the light and the shape of the old tree. It's ok to simplify because it will actually result in a stronger, moodier piece. Perhaps you could lose some of the background elements to the mist a little more. I noticed when I was driving through a snow storm yesterday that the photos I took really didn't show the decreased visibility as much as I thought they would. Everything was too sharply focused and it lost the snowy look. Maybe the same thing happens with mist, fog and smoke and we need to add a little atmosphere back in.

03-14-2017, 03:32 PM
Well...Without seeing a larger pic of the painting, I have few comments other than I like the painting a lot! The dark tree compared to the softer mistier distance makes this piece seem quite bold, in my opinion, and gives the illusion of great depth.

One thing that I have noticed about pastels - if it seems that the color has become duller than you want, it is common. What normally helps, is to take the brightest colors in the painting - in this case some strong yellows and yellow-greens in the grass, and perhaps the leaves (hard to tell at this size) and reinforce those highlights. Perhaps that is all you need.


03-15-2017, 10:53 PM
Thanks all, for your comments. I will try to post the reference tomorrow for those who have asked.

I haven't looked at it recently, so I'll be interested to see if there are more details to the tree than I have depicted. I live across the street from it and see it on a daily basis!


03-16-2017, 10:02 AM
As promised, here is the ref. photo. Let me know what you think.

Looking at it, it seems that I might just need to start over...



03-16-2017, 10:18 AM
Aww, yes that is a gorgeous tree!!

No, I don't think you have to start over at all!
Keep in mind the lighting in your painting is different than in the reference.
Just work the tree up more, get all those branches in. :)

03-16-2017, 01:07 PM
Ok, so I went down to the studio and worked on this sucker for an hour and a half...I like it MUCH better now. I didn't add branches, but I did soften the background, added more warm highlights, more green in the leaves and more detail there to bring them further forward. I hope this photo does it justice: I took it with my camera, not my phone. It blew out a bit on the lower right because of the sunlight from the door.


03-16-2017, 10:47 PM
I see that it came out very dark in the photo. I'll try to get a better one tomorrow.


Marilyn Ann
03-17-2017, 06:13 PM
You are really working hard on this painting and I know we are all learning as we watch the progress you are making.

I like the addition of warmer colors and the greater attention you are paying the tree, which, of course is what you want to represent: the tree

I especially like the way you have treated the foreground! I find foregrounds so difficult. Yours is perfect.

One thing you might consider doing is to connect some of the clumps of foliage. They are almost all the same size and value. Take another look at your reference photo for some idea of which ones you might link together and where you might vary size and value.

03-17-2017, 09:45 PM
Yes, I'm seriously considering adding more foliage...I think I was concentrating so hard on getting some of the aerial perspective on the farther-away branches that I failed to include some toward the viewer.

RE: Foreground...Thanks for saying my foreground is perfect...when there's every so much more of it in my picture than in the photo! I still have lots to learn about stuff.

Here is a more comparable photo of the dark one above.