Friday, February 23, 2018

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Painting trees in winter

For the artist, trees in winter without their leaves are totally different from summer time, and offer some challenges and opportunities. Here's a few thoughts on that subject.

I have to say I find trees in winter more interesting than in the summer. It's the difference between painting a clothed and unclothed figure. Summer trees are a bit blobby -but when they are in their winter nakedness it's a completely different ball game.

For a start, the winter sun strikes the branches of the trees at a shallow angle and brings out the colour of lichens and mosses - often a very vivid green. And many of the branches, when they are lit at this angle, cast interesting shadows on other branches, gving the shape of the tree some depth. You can see this sort of thing in this sketch.

Another important way of making the tree come to life is to show branches overlapping each other. Generally speaking, make the nearer branches a bit darker than the ones they are in front of, like I have done here. Otherwise your trees can look a bit like a black spider cut out of a piece of paper.

It doesn't matter for a minute if you don't get the shape and line of the branches exactly right - it's more important to observe the characteristic shapes of the particular type of tree that is your subject. In this case it is an oak tree and its branches and trunk has lots of sharp angular changes in direction which make a nice contrast with some younger trees growing up near to it.