Notes From My Tree Painting Journal
I got an email from a reader, asking me about how to paint sky holes in trees. I imagine that all kinds of painters will have all kinds of methods to paint sky holes. After many years of painting trees and practicing, I have found that my method works quite well.
I try to vary the shapes and sizes of sky holes to make them look more natural. The larger the sky hole is in the canopy, the lighter it will be toward the center. The smaller the hole is, he darker it will be because light will not pass as easily in a small space. I premix two slightly different tints of light sky color, one for outside of the canopy and the slightly darker version inside of the tree canopy for sky holes.
You should also be aware of problems with tangents (artificial stops) when painting sky holes. For example, if you are putting a sky hole next to a limb, be sure to extend it to the other side of the limb so that it continues. it will be a tangent if you only place it on one side of the limb. I try not to make the holes the same shape on both sides of the limb.
After I have put in my sky holes with oils, I take the flat side of a soft brush and gently lay it parallel on the canvas over the holes and pull it straight back. This slightly softens the edges of the holes making the edge transition softer between canopy and light. It will look more natural and not pasted on.
For acrylics, I wait until the sky holes are dry and then wash a dark blue over then to tone them slightly darker than the light outside of the tree canopy.The wash must be very thin.
The important thing about sky holes is to make them vary as much as possible and to look as natural as possible. There will be more holes higher in the canopy and fewer as you go down the tree. Study trees when you are out and look at their construction.