‘Trees In The Landscape ~ variations on a theme’
The best way to really learn about how trees relate to your particular landscape is to go outside and study tree formations first hand. This may be a little unrealistic in several parts of the world where it is cold and wet…. but my advice would be to go out and observe… If you find it too cold to paint, why not make quick on-location pencil sketches as well as sketching or painting from your window? Also remember to take photos to jog your memory when you are back in the warm.
We will focus on tree shapes as they appear in the landscape, and you will find that every tree has a different personality. At this stage we don’t really want too much detail, but will concentrate on value masses and tree structure shapes.
You can create mini landscape paintings or just isolate tree shapes in an abstract way…. or both…it’s up to you.
For this exercise in January, we will use one gouache colour such as Burnt Umber, Indigo, or lamp Black and white gouache
. With the addition of water a good range of values can be mixed, although sticking to three or four values is usually easiest to begin with.
Value and Tone
For those of you new to painting, value (or tone as it is known in the UK) is the relative lightness or darkness of a colour. For instance a value scale would consist of black being the darkest value and white the lightest value and various shades of grey fall in between. A good exercise in understanding how to mix values is to paint a value scale starting with black and creating ten values with the addition of white or water or both.
How to Begin
So, to start our challenge off, we will be painting small studies of trees in value. A watercolour sketchbook is ideal for these little tonal studies and I would suggest doing as many as you can. Marking off small areas in masking tape on stretched watercolour paper or a watercolour block is another way to go. Thick craft paper or mat board would also make good surfaces for gouache. Really it’s whatever you feel comfortable with and have to hand.
Making A Mess!
Don’t worry if to begin with some of your studies look like a mess!.....as the point of this exercise is to start learning how to ‘see’ past colour and focus on value masses in the landscape. Gouache is a perfect medium for this as it has a lovely creamy consistency and you don’t have to worry about saving the white of the paper for the lightest value.
Once you feel proficient in using just a few values, add more values to the mix and bring in some detail to suggest foliage and compositional elements. You may also wish to paint a little larger for these compositional studies. I often work on stretched paper and then cut and re-mount my plein air studies into my workbooks or spiral bound sketchbooks.
Viewing Your Progress
Another tip is to either tape or pin your studies together onto a notice board or large drawing board so you can view them all at once. This is a valuable tool in understanding visually which compositions work and those that don’t. It will also encourage you and inspire you to develop your little studies into paintings.
So, once again....
Begin by looking at trees in the landscape close to where you live, and start by making either small sketches or value studies in pencil or paint focusing first on value masses and then tree shapes.
Working from your first impressions of the landscape (your sketches or value studies) develop some of these into slightly larger compositions using one gouache colour and white plus water. Do as many of these as you can over the next four weeks.
When you are ready to post your studies, please include the initial photo, sketches or whatever it was that inspired you in the first place along with your value paintings. At the top of your post(s) in this thread give your user name and post #...for example for my first post I would use:
Maggie Latham value studies#1 for my second post Maggie Latham value studies #2 and so forth…… this way it will be easier over the next three months for everyone to follow your progression over the weeks rather than just searching through random postings.
Feel free to ask questions about gouache, value, trees etc within the thread as normal, and comment on each other’s work as usual. I would suggest that any postings of other artists work for inspiration should be limited to trees in the landscape in either gouache or watercolour.
This thread will be a fun and interesting way to discover how to use gouache in different ways, and to re-learn how to view trees in the landscape.
Here are the links to previous gouache challenge threads, which includes a great deal of nice work and information about gouache:
This link explains about Notan (quick value mass studies for working out compositional elements) by Richard McKinley, a fabulous pastel artist:
Here are some fantastic gouache landscape and tree paintings by Marius Breuil (1850-1932). On this website click on the Uk flag, then on ‘work’, then on aquarelles et gouaches……these paintings are a just wonderful.
Have a very creative New Year and happy gouache painting…