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Old 01-02-2008, 10:16 AM
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Tree trunk colors?

Okay, folks, I'm not even going to be embarrassed about this. I'm just going to face my shortcomings here, and ask a very basic question. I spent nearly all day yesterday trying to get a closeup of some tree trunks to look right. They went from too red to too brown to some other odd colors, but they still look like fantasy art trees. That would be fine if I was trying to emulate Frank Frazetta, but I'm not. I do study trees, of course, but I just can't seem to get that combination of gray and other colors that I see. So, to you folks who do a lot of closeups of tree trunks... what basic color mixtures do you use for trunks that are basically in light shadow, but have some sunlight highlights? This is why I've avoided any closeups, but I really want to try it. And no, I'm not going to post what I have so far, but I am going to tackle it again tonight. These are live trees, by the way, not dead wood.

Thanks for any help I can get.
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Old 01-02-2008, 10:33 AM
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Jim Updegraff Jim Updegraff is offline
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Re: Tree trunk colors?

As the local expert and embodiment of dead wood, allow me a word here. For years I was the captive of local color - the view that says that sky is blue, clouds are white, grass is green, apples are red, bananas are yellow. In the end, though, I came to accept that it is all a matter of light and texture. You know the drill, Tex. Look at it, squint, think.

We all develop a short hand for this stuff. I start with raw umber and add color from there. A little light red, a little Naples yellow, a little ultra blue, a little Paines grey, a little white until it looks right. Iím not sure this is an adequate answer to you question, except to say that the texture of the bark is probably as important as color. Look at the difference between the reflected light on a Hickory, a Cottonwood, a Sycamore, a Burr Oak or a Shaggy Oak.

Quite frankly, I donít see anything wrong with your trees. They look pretty convincing to me.
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Old 01-02-2008, 02:38 PM
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Re: Tree trunk colors?

Looks like I'm going to put the painting aside tonight, and dig out a blank board and just experiment. I had done a graphite thumbnail, worked out my composition, and jumped in to this one, but after some time, I stepped back and studied it, and whatever color sense I may have had failed me completely. I can see it. I understand it. But I couldn't live with the colors as a serious painting. I figured I just wasn't using the right combination of colors.

Most of my trees have either been far away or in deep shadow. This is a different composition for me, and isn't quite as easy as my thumbnail made it seem.

Thanks for the input, Jim. It's greatly appreciated.
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Old 01-02-2008, 04:13 PM
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Re: Tree trunk colors?

Ohhh, Ralph...
I'll try to post a couple of mine this week, to show you simply what I do. It'll be just a newbie version - because you are way further technically (and talented) advanced than I am. (Good English, huh?) I love your style, and it will be interesting to watch you apply your talent to new ideas.
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Old 01-02-2008, 05:28 PM
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Re: Tree trunk colors?

What kind of tree is it Ralph? I understand what you are saying because I just finished a painting where the bark in the shade was a lavender hue - I went ahead & painted it that way & it read right. I'm thinking that even if the color looks funky to you, use it, but maybe tone it down by using it's complimentary color? Or, maybe mix a large amount of your gray, then add it to the other hues to tone them down? Hope this helps a little I'm still learning too!
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Old 01-02-2008, 05:41 PM
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Re: Tree trunk colors?

I don't have any advice, because I have exactly the same problem. I'll be checking in for further answers, but Jim's advice seems sound. Jane
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Old 01-02-2008, 05:56 PM
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Re: Tree trunk colors?

They can be any color if the values are right Ralph. I think Carlson has some of the best thought around this and some great paintings as well to illustrate what he is talking about.

Here are a couple of ideas that you may have an interest in playing with. The trunks are an upright plane which will be the darkest value. With that being said you are painting an upright cylinder. Take a black tin can and a white tin can and observe how the light falls on both the white and the black in different types of lighting, with the absence of local color it is easy to see what color the light that falls on the cylinder is, how warm is the reflected light, how cool or warm are the cast shadows? All of this info is the info that helps be paint a believable tree trunk. Any combination of the three primaries plus white is the right color for a tree trunk.

Is that vague enough Ralph? Kind of like nailing jello to a wall.
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Old 01-02-2008, 06:29 PM
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Re: Tree trunk colors?

Thanks June, Teresa, Jane...

And Les, I'm reading this at work, and trying not to laugh out loud at the "vague jello" part. I'm familiar with Carlson's statement, and I kept repeating it to myself, but I wasn't believing it while looking at the painting. I'll keep at it. Thanks a lot for the input!
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Old 01-02-2008, 08:47 PM
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Re: Tree trunk colors?

Something that has helped me quite a bit was to discard any thoughts or preconcieved notions of what color I think something should be and observe everything as if I am seeing it for the first time. This has been quite helpful in figure and portrait work. In the beginning stages of learning to paint I found that I would have an idea of what color something should be and avoid mixing the color that would make it work. I try to stay away from shelf colors and play around with premixing my own browns and ochres. They are alot easier to bend the temperature on when I mix my own colors. For instance, yellow ochre out of the tube is pretty low in pigment with about any manufacturer. A yellow ochre that I mix has the same pigment load as the primaries on my pallett. The same is true for burnt sienna and the umbers. I find them to be useful in an underpainting but I tend to stop using them after I finish my thin layer. I understand that you work with guoache, but I have a feeling that harmonies may be the challenge you are struggling with if it doesn't feel natural. We can use some pretty oddball colors if they harmonize with the rest of the pallett.
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Old 01-02-2008, 11:45 PM
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Re: Tree trunk colors?

Been rereading Gruppe's books which have incredible trees painted throughout. I recommend those. Les has posted good info too.
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Old 01-03-2008, 12:55 AM
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Re: Tree trunk colors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by les lull
Something that has helped me quite a bit was to discard any thoughts or preconcieved notions of what color I think something should be and observe everything as if I am seeing it for the first time. This has been quite helpful in figure and portrait work. In the beginning stages of learning to paint I found that I would have an idea of what color something should be and avoid mixing the color that would make it work. I try to stay away from shelf colors and play around with premixing my own browns and ochres. They are alot easier to bend the temperature on when I mix my own colors. For instance, yellow ochre out of the tube is pretty low in pigment with about any manufacturer. A yellow ochre that I mix has the same pigment load as the primaries on my pallett. The same is true for burnt sienna and the umbers. I find them to be useful in an underpainting but I tend to stop using them after I finish my thin layer. I understand that you work with guoache, but I have a feeling that harmonies may be the challenge you are struggling with if it doesn't feel natural. We can use some pretty oddball colors if they harmonize with the rest of the pallett.

I'm not sure I'm at the point of that kind of premixing, but I see your point. I also have to mix small amounts at a time because the gouache dries so fast. I don't mind using strong color (as you've seen from some of my stuff in the last few months), as long as the whole painting works together. I think that's what I'm struggling with on this one.
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Old 01-03-2008, 12:57 AM
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Re: Tree trunk colors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Danny Griego
Been rereading Gruppe's books which have incredible trees painted throughout. I recommend those. Les has posted good info too.

Hi Danny! Thanks for stopping in. I appreciate the input.
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Old 01-03-2008, 02:16 AM
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Re: Tree trunk colors?

post it baby.Take your beating like a man.
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Old 01-03-2008, 09:53 AM
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Re: Tree trunk colors?

I thought I was the only one who is tree challenged. I went out to paint a few weeks ago and got so frustrated with trying to figure out what color a tree was. It's not so much that I couldn't make the color (with pastels) but I couldn't even decide what color to make! Trees don't seem to be brown or gray to me. Dead wood is easier - it's lighter in value and seems to reflect sky and ground colors. I hope with experience to at least be able to "see" tree colors better.

Donna
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Old 01-03-2008, 10:01 AM
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Re: Tree trunk colors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Wray
post it baby.Take your beating like a man.

It would be worse than a beating. It's just an 11x14, but it's killing me. Two weeks off and it feels like I'm starting over. I'll do more on it tonight, and then... maybe.
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