View Full Version : tree study -- green maple?

08-30-2004, 03:25 PM

This is my latest as I try to learn arcylic painting. It is the tree on our front lawn, a young green maple I think. Hope you like it. It took forever to paint all these leaves.

The grass turned out badly so don't look at that. I'm going to try other techniques in the future.

I wonder if anyone has any tips for painting opaquely with acrylics. For each leaf I painted, I had to go over it twice in order to achieve opacity. Because I was working with very small shapes painting them twice was difficult. I think it is because I made a mistake -- using Phthalo Green as my main green shade, which contains a "transparent pigment". Perhaps if I had chosen a more opaque green this wouldn't have been a problem...

Anyway, thanks for looking.

- Matthew Durante

EDIT: I forgot to say, 10" x 14" on cavas panel, golden fluid acrylics.

08-30-2004, 03:51 PM
These studys are excellent, Matthew. Acrylics dry transparent, so you have to build up layers. Some colors dry more transparent than others, as you know, but you could be using a color that works perfectly with your subject and it would be worth it to paint it twice. In this case, though, you are probably better off using a more opaque green.


08-30-2004, 04:18 PM
Thanks Dave, what you say makes sense. I suppose if I wanted to paint very opaquely all the time I'd have to paint in tempera (or maybe casein?), but then you lose all the nice transparent things acrylics can do. Acrylics probably are the best compromise for me.

- Matthew Durante

Richard Saylor
08-30-2004, 08:45 PM
It took forever to paint all these leaves.
You can speed up painting the illusion of leaves by stippling on the paint with a fairly stiff, round brush. I use an old worn-out hog bristle for this.
I wonder if anyone has any tips for painting opaquely with acrylics. For each leaf I painted, I had to go over it twice in order to achieve opacity.
Apply the paint more thickly. This is easy to do if you paint the leaves by stippling, and it can be very effective (and realistic). (An oil painting technique commonly used by the old masters was to paint the shadows using a thin glaze and then applying the highlights in a thick impasto.)

08-30-2004, 09:08 PM
Thanks Richard, you're right stippling would have sped it up. But since this tree was all I was concentrating on and I'm a glutton for punishment I decided to try and suggest the actual shape of the leaves. Also its a smallish-sized tree and one definitely senses the pointiness of the leaves from a close distance. You get that feeling from my painting from up to 6' away...

Thanks for the great suggestion though. Next time I'll paint a really big tree, a tree in the distance or a tree with really small leaves and then it's stiple time!!!

- Matthew Durante

08-30-2004, 10:22 PM
I know this is a study and you are content to "trash" the grass, but before you do; try this....use the stippling technique and go over the grass with some darker green/brown, some pale green, and some warm color (yellow). Do these using a glaze technique. I'll bet you'll be surprised what an improvement this makes and you'll know better how to tackle your NEXT one. :)

08-31-2004, 12:34 AM
I am impressed. This is very realistic. Your studies are coming along very well.

08-31-2004, 12:46 AM

That's a great idea for doing the grass! The other thing I was thinking was leaving it essentially a solid color then glazing areas of soft highlight, then pouncing them with a stiple brush. The effect might be similar. However normal stippling might give me more noise and suggest grass better... Not sure if I'll try it with this as I've already started to wrap my head around another painting, but maybe. Regardless I guarantee there are more lawns in my future! :)


Thank You!

- Matthew Durante

08-31-2004, 07:26 AM
I think you were right to paint all that detail as much as you did, since as you say, it was the focus of your attention. And I think you did a fantastic job. I don't know if I would have had the patience.

I wonder if you could tell us what brushes you used and maybe recreate a 'how-to' with a small area to show us?


08-31-2004, 08:02 AM
The other thing I was thinking was leaving it essentially a solid color then glazing areas of soft highlight, then pouncing them with a stiple brush.
Matthew, that would work too, and would be more subtle, leaving the focus on those wonderful leaves and the beautiful detail of the tree.
I too would like to see what brushes you used and a how to.

08-31-2004, 08:25 AM
small brushes can be a pain, what size and type did you use? :wave:

Lady Carol
08-31-2004, 10:06 AM
Wonderful tree. It is really very good. I wish I had the patience to paint that much detail. How long did it take?

08-31-2004, 10:52 AM
GREAT tree lots nice work. I would make the trunk a little larger and more interesting. Do not like grass color ,use the suggestions you got here. Need character as the leaves...also let some light in lacy shadows on the ground...as with the leaves.But it wiill be a nice one..Bridges

08-31-2004, 01:22 PM
WOW! So many comments this morning, thanks everybody for your kind words. I am happy you like it.

As for doing some kind of demo with pictures, I'll see if I can put something together. However the technique is really very simple -- an all opaque technique moving from darkest color to lightest, layering leaf upon leaf. I've guessed that many of my favorite artist used this technique so I thought I'd try.

Attached is the underpainting with the "leaf mass" painted in the darkest color and the trunk and branches painted atop that. To do a better job, I could have painted in more of the trees branch structure -- but I was too eager to get to the leaves.

Including the underpainting, I used 5 layers of color. Using Golden's Fluid Acrylics, I measure paint in drops so that I can easily remix colors. This is not a perfect method as drop sizes can vary, but it normally is okay. Here are my colors:

G = Phthalo Green (Yellow Shade)
Y = Hansa Yellow Medium
B = Carbon Black

Layer 1: 17G 2Y 1B
Layer 2: 5G 1Y
Layer 3: 2G 1Y
Layer 4: 1G 3Y
Layer 5: 1G 20Y

As for brushes, I painted the underpainting with a generic size 4 round, but went over the edges to add detail with the only other brush I used: my Winsor & Newton Pure Kolinsky Pointed Round Series 7 size 000. Dick Blick had a sale going and I bought one last month. I used the brand new brush so much on these leaves that half the label has worn off from water and soap!

The shapes themselves are 5-pointed leaves, but because the leaves are at different angles I didn't just draw stars. I tried to vary the shapes enough to be interesting. I made them smaller at the top which seemed to match the real tree.

I worked in sections, top down, painting layers 2-4 atop the underpainting. Once the entire tree was completed in the way, I went over the whole thing with the highlight layer.

As for the time it took, I'd say about two weeks. But this was partly because of the transparent qualities of the green I used. Everything had to painted at least twice, which took forever -- and that includes the underpainting! Next time I'll just paint the underpainting in black and glaze over with green.

Okay, sorry for rambling, and thanks everybody for your interest!

- Matthew Durante