Painting Trees–Study # 3: tips scribbled in margins

Before I move on from looking at trees in general to specific types and how to use them in landscapes, I have numerous tips and advice to collect in one place.  In no particular order:

1.  When defining your trunk and first main branches, leave the ends open; a tree has to breathe.

2.  When applying a color wash over dotted foliage, keep the color to the leafy area only.

3.  Avoid creating perfectly symmetrical trees; they rarely grow that way naturally.

4.  When dotting trunks and old branches to represent moss, be sure the moss is attached to the tree, not floating in space.  Be careful not to overdo it.

5.  Avoid placing branches in parallel lines, looking like railway tracks. Enclosed triangular spaces formed by branches are deemed “female” and open triangular shapes are deemed “male”.

6.  Strive to match your strokes for limbs to the nature of the tree—curvy and graceful for willows for example, but skewed and twisted for pine. Study growth patterns: some branch alternately, some leaves/needles cluster, some point down while others up.

7.  The base of a tree looks more naturally ‘planted’ if angled rather than horizontal to your page. Roots can be bulging from the ground in various directions IF that is the nature of that kind of tree.  Study differences between old and new growth.

8.  Strive to paint ‘think to thin’ as you progress up a trunk, outward towards the branch ends, as this is the more natural shaping from old to newer growth. In spring compositions, branches should be appear thinner than in winter settings, to convey the sense of new growth.

9.  Focus on the patterns within.  (This is where understanding ‘fractals’ could be helpful!)

10.  Strive to capture the spirit of a tree.

Functions of Trees in landscapes:

1.  to provide height, “perspective”

2.  to establish or anchor figures

3.  to provide distance and atmosphere

4.  to establish season or time

5.  to convey special meaning.  (traditionally trees have symbolism, for example: bamboo, pine and plum together = friendship)

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