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Painting trees......

edited December 2018 in Painting
Just want to ask a question: When painting trees against a clear sky, what is the better method, painting the branches over a wet background, or over a dry one? I have found that painting branches and foliage on a wet sky is pretty difficult to pull off. I haven't tried painting trees over a dry background because I fear they will look ''cut out" but I'm not at all liking the results I get when painting them on a wet surface. What is your approach? 
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Comments

  • SummerSummer -
    edited December 2018

    That is a very good question.  One that I've had all of my painting life.  I have discovered that both are correct depending upon the style of painting.  The Bob Ross painting method boldly puts in the trees and branches last, over a wet sky.  Mostly, I hear putting in the sky first in either acrylic or oils and letting it dry or get sorta dry.  This method requires some planning and more time.  It is up to you and how you want to paint a particular painting.  I think the most ideal is building up the primer and stain in acrylic and putting in the sky with acrylic and when that dries, paint the rest of the painting with either acrylic or oils--trees and branches.  For me that is not possible because I'm an oil person from start to finish which means if I put the sky in first, I let it dry until tacky, and using the fat over lean principles, paint in the trees and branches and the rest of the painting.  What do you think?  Does any of this ring true to you?

    Edit:  I've never been able to use those chisels to push the wet paint out of the way to make way for trees and branches.

    Summer 
    Leo2015
  • edited December 2018
    Ok, that does make sense. I only use oils too so that might work for me. I was attempting to do an oil sketch of an outdoor scene earlier today and was getting frustrated while trying to paint the leafless trees against an old church building and a gray sky. The color I mixed for the trees kept picking up the wet paint under it and was ruining my color. Of course that's to be expected but I was feeling impatient and although I knew I could get better results if I waited for the painting of the church and sky to dry a bit, I went ahead and painted them in with rather poor results. 
    Another problem when painting leafless trees seen at a distance is deciding on what direction to move the brush. I tend to start at the bottom and then make the stroke upwards, but again, if done over a wet under painting, it will pick up the color and ruin the mix. One has to clean the brush after each stroke to keep it clean. 
    Summer
  • edited December 2018
    @Leo2015, I paint a lot of trees. My approach is tp  paint most of the sky first except for where the trees are. That is,  I leave an area of dry stained canvas in the shape of the trees and paint the sky around it. Then I paint the trees  - their trunks, branches and foliage. Often the stained canvas serves as a dark or mid-tone in the trees.  Finally, I add sky holes within the foliage and cut in with sky colour to refine the edges of the foliage. For me, I get better results with this method than trying to paint the trees over a still wet sky which, often being blue and white, takes ages to dry and milks up the darks in the trees when painting a la prima. Hope this is helpful.  :)
    Leo2015SummerBOB73Marik
  • edited December 2018
    That is a logical method of course. But how would you handle the painting of leafless trees? It's easy to paint them on a dry surface but wont that give them an ugly "cut out" appearance? I've never tried it but I imagine it would. I like the look of this kind of tree in paintings by the Impressionists but it's a bit hard to get that effect. Look at the leafless tree on the left. The branches seem to have been put down by dragging the brush over a rough dry ground. 
  • I usually paint the sky first, and let it dry.  It's not something I want to smudge, because it is hard to fix.  If you need blending, it's not easy to do between tree branches.

    But you're right, you end up with hard edges if the sky is dry.  Have you tried letting it tack up over a day or two, but not drying, before adding the tree?

       
    Leo2015
  • edited December 2018
    @Leo2015, I'm looking at it on my phone so I can't be sure but I'd say that tree was painted using an approach similar to that which I described above. 
    Leo2015
  • SummerSummer -
    edited December 2018
    Can you purposely make the skyline a soft edge with the intention of bumping it back when you re-work that area from the other side?  I know the idea works, but it requires that you remember why it looks so bad for so long.  Hmm.
  • edited December 2018
    This is probably a better example. It's that broken quality in the branches I can't get painting wet on wet. I wonder if Pissarro used a brush or a palette knife to pull it off? 
  • PaulB said:
    I usually paint the sky first, and let it dry.  It's not something I want to smudge, because it is hard to fix.  If you need blending, it's not easy to do between tree branches.

    But you're right, you end up with hard edges if the sky is dry.  Have you tried letting it tack up over a day or two, but not drying, before adding the tree?

       
    Yea, Summer also recommended that approach. I'll have to try it. 
  • I would highly recommend Richard Schmid's landscape videos - it helped me so much not thinking of a tree or a sky but just shapes and value.  Abstraction - not objects or things - just shapes and values.  
    Leo2015tassieguy
  • To get the branch effect in the example, I would put two values on one very thin round bristle brush, on the long sides, and really twist the brush as I dragged it from bottom to top.  That technique might even work on both a wet or dry background. 
  • Summer said:
    To get the branch effect in the example, I would put two values on one very thin round bristle brush, on the long sides, and really twist the brush as I dragged it from bottom to top.  That technique might even work on both a wet or dry background. 
    Lol, now you're getting too clever for me! 
    Summer
  • edited December 2018
    If you examine impressionist paintings closely it's sometimes hard to tell how they applied their paint. The paint often appears in little globs of color mixtures with no clear evidence of the type of brush used. I've looked closely at some of Monets paintings and his brush work never looks like the brush work of modern painters. There's always something unique about the paint quality, brushwork, and texture of the canvas. Maybe time has affected the appearance too. 

  • Julianna said:
    I would highly recommend Richard Schmid's landscape videos - it helped me so much not thinking of a tree or a sky but just shapes and value.  Abstraction - not objects or things - just shapes and values.  
    I understand that principle, you can also apply it when painting faces. You focus on the values and plains instead of the features and it all magically falls into place, but it's kind of hard to do that with leafless branches against the sky because they tend to be simple lines. Maybe I'm complicating things too much? 
  • Leo2015 said:
    If you examine impressionist paintings closely it's sometimes hard to tell how they applied their paint. The paint often appears in little globs of color mixtures with no clear evidence of the type of brush used. I've looked closely at some of Monets paintings and his brush work never looks like the brush work of modern painters. 

    I agree.  I'm always on the lookout for unorthodox tools that create interesting effects.  So far, I've only come up with handling standard brushes in unique ways, sponges, certain kinds of cloth or twine, old heavily worn out brushes, brushes I can trim with embroidery scissors, edges of things like palette knives, brush handles.  But I'm sure that I'm not even close--haha.
    Leo2015
  • Well you are certainly being far more creative than me! I don't dare use anything but brushes. Sometimes I will use a palette knife but I'm not very good with it. 
  • Summer said:
    Leo2015 said:
    If you examine impressionist paintings closely it's sometimes hard to tell how they applied their paint. The paint often appears in little globs of color mixtures with no clear evidence of the type of brush used. I've looked closely at some of Monets paintings and his brush work never looks like the brush work of modern painters. 

    I agree.  I'm always on the lookout for unorthodox tools that create interesting effects.  So far, I've only come up with handling standard brushes in unique ways, sponges, certain kinds of cloth or twine, old heavily worn out brushes, brushes I can trim with embroidery scissors, edges of things like palette knives, brush handles.  But I'm sure that I'm not even close--haha.
    Another important factor is the type of canvas used. The old masters all used linen canvas and linen tends to give paintings a rougher look. 
    Summer
  • I'm sure you will find a method that will work for you. :)
    Leo2015
  • Leo

    The key to dark branches over a light wet sky is to dip the small round, rigger or liner brush in medium first. Wipe off excess. Then using a fat fluid paint, wrist flick, slashing upward stokes lifting off at the end.
    Same technique for the highlight side of the branch.

    Denis

    Leo2015
  • Leo2015 said:
    painting the branches over a wet background,
    I do this quite often...then add the sky holes or bird holes. Gives me an automatic lighter value at the top.
  • edited December 2018
    A few examples of painting trees into the wet sky.

    httpsusv-cdnnet5020129uploadseditor1dveig7deo7xw2jpg
    Leo2015
  • I think you answered your own question at the beginning. It's easier to paint the sky first and let it dry a few days. Kaustav has mastered his technique with lots of practice but I'm with PaulB. and Tassieguy's idea works well for larger areas. stroke from thick to thin and yes other tools including quills and palette knives are often used for wet in wet. Forget Monet, he had magic none of us has available for our use.
  • BOB73 said:
    I think you answered your own question at the beginning. It's easier to paint the sky first and let it dry a few days. Kaustav has mastered his technique with lots of practice but I'm with PaulB. and Tassieguy's idea works well for larger areas. stroke from thick to thin and yes other tools including quills and palette knives are often used for wet in wet. Forget Monet, he had magic none of us has available for our use.
    It's the same with Van Gogh. I thought it would be easy to copy his work but I was dead wrong. Impressionist or post impressionist painting isn't as simple as it looks. I've actually had a much easier time copying Sargent or Bouguereau. 
  • dencal said:
    Leo

    The key to dark branches over a light wet sky is to dip the small round, rigger or liner brush in medium first. Wipe off excess. Then using a fat fluid paint, wrist flick, slashing upward stokes lifting off at the end.
    Same technique for the highlight side of the branch.

    Denis

    Thanks for the tip! 
  • edited December 2018
    Kaustav said:
    A few examples of painting trees into the wet sky.

    httpsusv-cdnnet5020129uploadseditor1dveig7deo7xw2jpg
    That's fine work my friend. But how do you handle leafless trees? I tried to "draw" the branches in front of a building and the sky behind it (wet paint) with a smallish brush and got terrible results. Maybe I was thinking too much of drawing rather than of painting? Do you think it's better to paint branches with no leaves over a dry under painting rather than a wet one? Others here have already offered some interesting ideas but wondering what your take is since you have so much experience on this subject. 
  • Here's a photo to dive you crazy.
    Slide 5 of 25 A man walks with his dog through a forest during a foggy morning in Bern
    Leo2015Dianna
  • @Leo2015 ; This  has been an interesting thread for me.  I'm going to try some of the suggestions here.  Before I do, I'm guessing that the first thing I must do is know if I'm going to be painting thick or thin.  I'm thinking that will help me determine which sky/tree method I will use.  I'm also realizing now that I should keep my options open and know how to use several methods.  Summer
    Leo2015
  • Bob, yes, that photo represents exactly the kind of problem I'm talking about! Have you ever attempted painting anything like that? I'm not an artist that strives to paint in a photo realistic style, but rather I try to suggest things in simpler ways. Trying to portray such complicated branches as pictured in the photo simply can be pretty difficult, especially if you have little experience painting trees as I do. 
  • Summer said:
    @Leo2015 ; This  has been an interesting thread for me.  I'm going to try some of the suggestions here.  Before I do, I'm guessing that the first thing I must do is know if I'm going to be painting thick or thin.  I'm thinking that will help me determine which sky/tree method I will use.  I'm also realizing now that I should keep my options open and know how to use several methods.  Summer
    Will you work from nature or from a photo? 
  • SummerSummer -
    edited December 2018
    Leo2015 said:
    Summer said:
    @Leo2015 ; This  has been an interesting thread for me.  I'm going to try some of the suggestions here.  Before I do, I'm guessing that the first thing I must do is know if I'm going to be painting thick or thin.  I'm thinking that will help me determine which sky/tree method I will use.  I'm also realizing now that I should keep my options open and know how to use several methods.  Summer
    Will you work from nature or from a photo? 
    From a photo taken with a dslr, tweaked in Affinity, and printed and laminated glossy by WhiteWall.
    Leo2015
  • In the wintry photo above each branch you paint is like painting a whole tree so paint this and you will have painted a thousand trees. All you need to remember is the trunks get thinner as they get taller and branches get thinner as they get further from the trunk. Painting over dry sky is always easier if your are going for details. Painting from life or photo, you don't have to copy every branch and leaf. It sometimes makes a better composition to let more sky/background through. You can "prune" your trees by leaving out extraneous branches leaf clusters or things. And remember what @dencal said:  "The key to dark branches over a light wet sky is to dip the small round, rigger or liner brush in medium first. Wipe off excess. Then using a fat fluid paint, wrist flick, slashing upward stokes lifting off at the end.
    Same technique for the highlight side of the branch."
  • edited December 2018
    @Leo2015 There are several techniques to paint leafless tress. Always remember, that the trees are lighter in value at the top. Hand pressure must always be lighter when you reach the top. I painted this painting but I failed. I am particularly not happy with the trees and the road. I need to make some basic composition changes here.

    1. Wet on wet: load the brush with paint and medium (mostly turps) but make sure to have a sharper point. Hold the brush lightly upside down and then start a single line from the stem to the top. Change the angle of the wrist when needed. Repeat the process in the same manner for the branches  But remember, thick stems and branches may have darker core shadow areas. So, these need to be painted after the main structure is done. Here the underneath paint layer will help the tree paint to flow better.
    2. Wet on dry (Dry Brush): same process above but here you'll have almost nothing on the brush to achieve a broken color effect.
    3. Wet on dry (diluted paint): same process above but with thinned down paint to produce more accurate marks.
    Leo2015
  • BTW Here is one wet on wet with a rigger.
    Leo2015BOB73
  • @BOB73 ;   Bob, that misty photograph is just divine.  I'd love to paint it but I know it would take me months and I have three or four 3-monthly paintings already lined-up. And of course there's always the copyright problem of painting someone else's photograph.  

    I'm a bit confused about why I need to know that a tree is darker at the bottom than the top if I am painting by the DMP method which is based largely on VALUES, so all I have to do is use my eyes to determine which is darker and which is lighter? 
    BOB73
  • @Kaustav ;     Love that long rectangular painting you just posted.  Very nice.
    Kaustav
  • Dianna

    You are barking up the wrong tree  =)

    Denis

    SummerDianna
  • Dianna said:
    @Kaustav ;     Love that long rectangular painting you just posted.  Very nice.
    @Dianna Thanks Its actually a small section of my painting. I just wanted to show @Leo2015 how i did the bare trees. :)
  • SummerSummer -
    edited December 2018
    Dianna said:

    I'm a bit confused about why I need to know that a tree is darker at the bottom than the top if I am painting by the DMP method which is based largely on VALUES, so all I have to do is use my eyes to determine which is darker and which is lighter? 
    For those times when you don't like what you are seeing, or, you are painting from your imagination, or, don't feel like color-checking, or painting blind while sipping coffee--haha.  But you are absolutely right about painting what you are seeing as being the DMP method.

    Summer
    BOB73Dianna
  • @dencal it's a dog-eat-dog world. @Dianna, I didn't say darker at the bottom, I said thinner as the tree get's taller so you are right about the DMP method.
    Dianna
  • Dianna said:
    I'm a bit confused about why I need to know that a tree is darker at the bottom than the top if I am painting by the DMP method which is based largely on VALUES, so all I have to do is use my eyes to determine which is darker and which is lighter? 
    @Dianna you’re absolutely right.  There are two perfectly valid ways of painting being described here.  There are many more - Vive la différence.

    [1] Put paint on canvas, see how it looks, adjust and repeat.  Paint what you see, but editorialize for desired effect.  This is not DMP.  This method is helped by a neutral stain that doesn’t interfere with your assessment of color on an unfinished canvas.

    [2] Match color, place on canvas, do not blend, do not second-guess the color matching.  Paint what you see.  This is DMP.  it does not require a neutral stain, but it helps to have a midtone stain which improves paint coverage.
    SummerDiannaKaustav
  • I would just like to say to you all that this is a great helpful and interesting thread.
    Thanks
     :) 
  • @Dianna You're right about matching Colors in DMP. But what happens is while following the method you understand more about how light works. After a while with more experience you just know some of the things by heart. If you see David Leffel painting he hardly looks at the sitter. He just knows how a face or perhaps everything appears.  :)
    DiannaLeo2015
  • And when you begin to paint by heart, it is only one step away from painting blind while sipping coffee.  Hmm.  :o


    DiannaKaustavBOB73
  • Thank you everyone. Very edifying.
  • @dencal ;  You were just dying to use that one, weren't you.  :) :)
  • @Dianna, Sounds like a leaf taken from Bobs book  :)  
    Kaustav
  • BOB73 said:
    I'm leafing that one alone.
    Oh @BOB73, I thought you would have gone out on a limb for that one.
    SummerBOB73Dianna
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