4–>40 Tree Studies


plein air set up painting the tree on the left

Today’s study subject is trees.  I’ll start out with an American elm tree that’s a volunteer in my yard and some call a “Trash” tree.  Well I’ll take that because it’s fast growing and will provide privacy especially if the pines on my neighbor’s side get hit with a bug or a freeze.  Besides, you can’t beat the cost! Speaking of trees that have a similar maligned reputation, please check out Leslie’s lovely painting of a cottonwood tree changing its foliage.  It’s stunning.


This picture was taken several days ago.  You can see the collapsible water bottle hanging from an S hook on the front of the en plein air easel and I have my small sketch pad with value sketch propped up behind the other water cup. The paper towel roll is precariously hanging on the crank handle for the tripod.  It’s a partial plan!  we’ll see how it works.  Perhaps the best thing “in the field” would be wearing a half height apron with big pockets.


First wash of the elm

I worked on it again today putting in darker sides on the shaded side and adding foliage here and there over the already dried lighter foliage.  I really studied the foliage structure of the tree and how the branches went up away from the trunk.


American Elm plein air study

There are a variety of techniques with this including wetting a clump of foliage first and then putting in thicker valued pigment to create softer edges.  I also did the branches leaving big gaps that I later filled in with a foliage clump.  Some other times I spritzed lightly to get a softer effect and went in with darker thicker pigment.  I got carried away and it’s wider than what a sapling trunk would probably support, but oh well.  It was fun to try.


mid trunk plein air study of pine

After that I worked on another study of the pine tree, but just the mid trunk area.  I have a brush called a dagger striper  that I haven’t practiced much with, and it worked quite well to make the long needles that are characteristic of this pine.  Before I figured that I could use that brush, i pulled down some color along the bottom edge of the bottom clump (as an example) and after using the dagger, I am happier with the thinner marks that you see at the top of that clump, under the branches.  Another technique to add in would be using a damp skinny flat to lift out branches that would appear to be catching the light.

I will do another more serious study of it working on the color mingling and then only putting a touch of the needles in here and there.  It will have a more professional and fresh look.  Better to suggest than to hit the viewer over the head…but I got caught up in playing!

Again, as always, thanks for stopping by and leaving comments.  They are really appreciated.


15 thoughts on “4–>40 Tree Studies

  1. These are both beautiful tree studies, Rachel. Thank you for linking to my post.
    I’m going to look up that dagger striper. I currently use a rigger to define tiny branches. I wonder if it is like that. Admire your work and set up for plein air work!


  2. Pingback: Another tree sketch and wash | Rachel Murphree Watercolors

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