Malcolm's Painting Matters

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Painting Tree Trunks Wet into Wet

This is a brief description of how to paint effective tree trunks using the wet into wet method. It is also a useful guide to colour mixing using a restricted palette.

First the colours we will use – the good old faithful colours – raw sienna, burnt sienna, burnt umber and ultramarine blue.

The easiest of all and the one that gives a nice representation of sunlight falling on the tree is a combination of raw sienna and burnt sienna. I often paint trees without any pencil work but sometimes will use a single line as a guide. I never draw in the full thickness of the trunk in pencil as I find this too rigid. As for shape you cannot beat going out and observing this first hand with a sketch book, but do not get carried away with some of the more weird and wacky shapes – these do have their place in certain paintings – but stick to things that actually look like a tree. Don’t make them taper too steeply and do make them thick enough to support the trees weight, you don’t want it blowing down in the wind.

Wet into Wet - Tree Trunks

Wet into Wet – Tree Trunks

Assuming you have used a single line paint in the trunk using the raw sienna in a sort of a medium thick wash. Next add the burnt sienna (using a thicker wash) to the side of the tree that has the shade and this needs doing while the tree is still wet. A more dramatic effect can be obtained by mixing burnt sienna & ultramarine blue which will give a darker brown. When applying the darker paint don’t forget in needs to be thicker than the first lighter application or else you will get cauliflowers when it dries. Also think about the shading where you get offshoots or where the trunk splits and where the trunk splits try not to get the branches the same thickness or coming off at the same angle or you risk the tree looking like a pair of upside-down legs!

Ultramarine blue and burnt sienna can also give you a grey mix also useful for trees and finally why not use burnt umber for the Brown and add ultramarine blue directly to the painting, mixing the colours directly on the paper. Hours of endless fun and practice, plenty of it, will move you towards perfection. But I heard an interesting comment that suggested that if we could paint perfectly painting would quickly become boring 🙂 Enjoy and any questions please do not hesitate to ask.

Also see my website at http://www.malcolmmbullock.co.uk