Notes From my Tree Journal
I'm finally getting some time back in the studio to paint what I want to. I started the composition today on a Live Oak painting. I'm going to try and recreate the lighting conditions I saw the other night, with the very dark sky and brilliant light on the tops of trees. I have toned the canvas with a dark blue black wash to start.
A word about painting tree canopies:
Every painter has a different approach to painting trees. Some painters tend to be literal about stems and leaves and linear in their approach to painting trees. I am more of a mass oriented painter. I tend to see shapes and value masses when I paint. I guess you could say I use a paint by number approach. I like to plug in value and color shapes around the tree, working all around the painting. Gradually, I begin to tighten up some areas with more texture and color, and then push atmospheric areas further back. Atmosphere and light are the main focus in a lot of my work. So as the tree is placed in the picture plane, it will get more or less attention and focus in terms of texture, shape and color intensity.
One of the problems I see for beginning painters is a poor value structure in the tree canopy. Too much information, using texture and leaf shapes to try and construct the canopy, rather than thinking about value masses. This looks cartoonish at times, as if leaf shapes were glued onto the painting. My experience over the last few years has made me aware that massing and using values thoughtfully really pays off. Y'see our eyes don't see the way a camera focuses. We can focus on any given tree, but the others around it will lose definition due to our lack of ability to focus on everything, the way a camera will. We see in planes and I like to think of my painting surface in three basic planes, fore/middle/back grounds. Wherever the trees are placed in those planes will effect how much detail we should put on any particular tree.