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Old 08-19-2008, 10:26 PM
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Deborah Secor Deborah Secor is offline
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Tree Basics...Foliage

I posted this in a thread and thought that perhaps it would be generally helpful, so I copied it here. It's just some advice about how I paint any tree.

First, it's much easier to work from a reference photo to learn how to see properly. Then:
  • Squint hard at the photo until you almost can't see the color, looking only for the overall shape of the tree. Is it oval, rectangular, triangular? Get that in mind first.
  • Then decide where the bottom of the trunk is located on the paper you're going to paint on. Make a small, light mark there.
  • Now look at the sides and top of the tree, remembering that overall shape. Make marks at the top and sides, too. If the tree goes off the paper on one side or the top, make a little mark on the board where you see it. Yes, even if it's off the paper!
  • Now lightly draw in the shape--your oval or rectangle or triangle--so that the overall shape of the entire tree matches up to your marks.
  • Then start with the trunk, finding the major branches you can see. Don't paint yet, just draw it in lightly.
  • Next lightly sketch in the big balloon of the foliage of the tree, ignoring small shapes. It might be like cotton candy or cloud shapes at this point, just fluffy and rounded.
  • Find the different balloons of foliage inside this bigger balloon, each of which is supported by a major branch. Ignore the small stuff, just find the bigger ones. There might be three or four of them. Sketch them in lightly.
  • Identify the direction of the sunlight and make a nice big arrow on your board, so you can keep it consistent.
  • Now, start with the SKY or whatever is behind the tree, lightly painting it using the flat side of the pastel. Paint a little sky into the edges of where there will be foliage, but don't use a lot of pastel. Go very lightly. Where the tree predominates, save the paper for the tree color instead.
  • Begin your actual tree once the background is established lightly, using a medium green color. Use the pastel on its side, following the contours of the foliage balloons.
  • Then add some strong, deep darks inside the foliage where there are shadows, and some strong lights where the sun hits the foliage, again using the side of the pastel. Don't think of this as drawing, but as PAINTING.
  • Once you have the balloons of foliage roughly established with the three values (medium, dark, light) of green, then find a stroke that resembles the leaf. A willow will be long vertical stroke, slightly curved, for instance, or cottonwoods will be a large rounded stroke. Whatever you decide on, use that as a kind of scribbly stroke, working a little dark into the lights and light into the darks, creating the light and shadow of the tree. Keep checking the big arrow showing you where the sun comes from and stay consistent. Use this detailed scribble stroke mostly along the edges of the light and dark areas, rather than trying to paint every leaf. You'll find that your viewer makes the connection from simply seeing texture in the areas of a lot of foliage.
  • Lastly you might add some strong light highlights, and put in a few sky holes where you can see larger patches of sky coming through. The sky coming through those holes is never as light as the sky behind it, so use a slightly darker sky color to do this.

I hope some of this helps you! One day when I have time I'll try to do a step-by step demonstration. Meanwhile, here's a painting where I used this system. Maybe it will help to look at it with what I said in mind. (You'll just have to trade red for green--sorry!)


Hope this is helpful. I'd love it if some of our tree painters would add their paintings here, too!

Deborah
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Old 08-19-2008, 11:31 PM
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Dougwas Dougwas is offline
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Re: Tree Basics...Foliage

Thanks Deborah. I have been struggling with trees the past few days and getting frustrated. I will give your method a try tomorrow and see what I can do. I think I am trying to paint the perfect tree and that just makes it worse.

I will be looking for balloons inside the big balloon now and remember to keep it simple.

Thanks again.

Doug
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Old 08-19-2008, 11:56 PM
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Re: Tree Basics...Foliage

Thanks for offering this. I don't paint trees but plan to give it a try in the future. I'm going to save this.

binkie
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:14 AM
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Re: Tree Basics...Foliage

Deborah, you are so thoughtful!!
I'm printing this off and saving it to try right away! Thank you! You are a .

nana
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:55 AM
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Re: Tree Basics...Foliage

Thanks for taking the time to explain your steps Deborah, you make it sound so simple, you're generosity and thoughtfulness are really appreciated.

Melodie
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Old 08-20-2008, 09:29 AM
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Re: Tree Basics...Foliage

Deborah this is fantastic! thanks so much and your tree is marvelous....I think you must be a pastel Saint...will call you Saint Deborah.....
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Old 08-20-2008, 04:41 PM
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Thumbs up Re: Tree Basics...Foliage

Thanks so much Deborah,
This is very helpful.
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Old 08-20-2008, 05:22 PM
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Deborah Secor Deborah Secor is offline
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Re: Tree Basics...Foliage

No problem--happy to help out. I will try to get to a demo one of these days. I'm teaching two classes on trees in the next couple of weeks so maybe that will be a chance to get some shots of the steps. I plan to start with a grove of trees, which is sometimes harder to do than the classic stand-alone tree.

I'd love to see some of your results if you guys do any balloons-inside-a-balloon style experiments...

saint (no capital!) Deborah
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Old 08-21-2008, 02:46 AM
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Re: Tree Basics...Foliage

Thanks a lot Deborah! very helpful
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Old 08-21-2008, 07:34 PM
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Re: Tree Basics...Foliage

OK Deborah. You asked for it. Here's my first attempt at the balloon method. I think it actually looks kinda like a tree. Maybe. Sorta.

Doug

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Old 08-21-2008, 08:21 PM
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Re: Tree Basics...Foliage

Thanks Deborah...I am totally frustrated with trees and folliage.
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Old 08-21-2008, 11:15 PM
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Deborah Secor Deborah Secor is offline
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Re: Tree Basics...Foliage

It does look like a tree, Doug! It just needs a couple things. How about a few interior trunks and branches that hold up the balloons. They'll be in shadow, but not too overly dark. And then add a scribbly stroke over the top of the balloons that's in the character of the leaves (in the second to last bullet point above.) It has good light and shadow!

Deborah
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Old 08-22-2008, 09:51 AM
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Re: Tree Basics...Foliage

Thanks Deborah, I know I can always use help with trees. One thing I'm beginning to notice with mine are that the sky holes naturally occur between the balloons. Because the tree is three dimensional, the balloons overlap more near the main trunks and as you move toward the outer branches the balloons spread out more and overlap less, thus more chances for a sky hole to appear. I've been lightly indicating these gaps (holes) when I sketch in a tree and most of them get covered by foliage but when I do find a place for a sky hole it seems to look more natural than if I just randomly put it in. Sometimes sky holes can be put on either side of a branch that connects two balloons. I think it's kind of neat to see the branch in a few places and it gives a little variety to the appearance of the sky hole.

Doug, that's a great start to a tree. Once you see them as large sculptural shapes that you can manipulate they aren't so intimidating!

Here's a painting where I was trying to feature a tree and where I was trying out the balloon and sky hole system. It was plein air so I didn't have too much time to think. If my sky hole ideas are wrong or don't make sense please tell me so I don't keep creating a forest of weird trees!

Donna
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Old 08-22-2008, 06:40 PM
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Re: Tree Basics...Foliage

Thanks for your help Deborah. I did what you told me to do on this one I think.




Doug
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Old 09-03-2008, 09:26 AM
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Re: Tree Basics...Foliage

Hi deborah very nice how to for those wanting to paint trees, I was wondering if you would mind posting a link of this in my, (starting my tree study) thread or if I could, that is if I can figure it out lol. Thank you for posting this how to, it is very informative.
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