Paint A Tree In Late Summer

A Focus On Creating Three-Dimensional Form With Color, Value and Overlaps

Trees – The Stars Of The Landscape

It is impossible to avoid trees in your landscape painting. There are many varieties in all shapes and sizes. Unless your goal is to paint the portrait of a specific tree, most of the trees in your landscape will be generic – with the right shape and color.  

Usually we resort to easy, ‘generic’ color choices that seem to fit the season  – none for winter trees, light greens for spring, deeper greens for summer, bright yellows, oranges and reds for peak fall. These generic seasonal color choices can be modified to depict a sense of one of those times between seasons.

Late Summer Color

By the middle of September, the summer season has nearly passed. The landscape changes color as summer gets old and weary. Rich, deep greens of mid-summer shift toward yellow and brown – surprisingly moving from cooler (blue greens) to warmer (yellow and yellow-gold greens).   We’ll get the look of those worn out greens with a unique blue-yellow mixture along with two colors to help neutralize the darker greens for shade and shadow areas.

Foliage Layers

Any representational painting must include the illusion of three-dimensional forms. As they are the stars of most every landscape scene, it is essential to create the 3D illusion on the shapes that represent trees. Creating the illusion of three dimensions on a two-dimensional piece of paper requires only a couple basic tricks: shifts and contrasts in value, color temperature and overlaps.

Major branches of trees generally sprout at spaced intervals. These branches terminate in smaller branches and twigs, which form the outer contours of the tree.  This is where most of the leaves grow.  The masses of leaves form layers that overlap each other from top to bottom, side-to-side, and front to back.  

Overlaps in the layers along with shifts and contrasts in value are enough to create the appearance of three-dimensional form.

This is a shorter lesson that covers the important changes in value and temperature along with overlaps that will create a sense of 3D form for any tree you paint.  We’ll also use a color palette that creates the diminished greens of late summer.

What You’ll Need:

  • Paper – a small piece of watercolor paper, about 5″ x 7″ – Arches 140lb CP Bright White 5 pack
  • Paint: Cadmium Yellow, Thalo (or Winsor) Blue, Cadmium Red, Raw Sienna
  • Brushes – Medium and Small Rounds, Rigger and maybe some of those odd shaped brushes that often go unused.



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