Landscapes: How To Paint Trees

The Paintings of Trees or With the Trees Sold in Millions of Dollars. 

 Sold in $57 MIllion (1993)

Wheat Field with Cypresses
Vincent van Gogh
National Gallery London

 Sold in $85 MIllion (2008)

Te Fare (La Maison) 
Paul Gauguin

Sold in $65.1 MIllion (2014)

Édouard Manet - Jeanne (Spring)
Édouard Manet


If you want to paint the trees, you are not alone. You are in the good company of the artists. In the company of the artist as Constable and Sisley. They always painted excellent trees. And if you are not living ina round-the-year snow-clad region, you can surely paint the trees well. Let us find out how we can paint the aesthetically correct trees in our landscape painting. Do remember, while painting landscapes, the trees are important objects.

Oil on canvas Claude Monet Jeanne-Marguerite
Lecadre in the Garden Sainte-Adresse
Painting The Trees: It is certain that if you love nature, you would love to depict the trees in their every shade. In every season. In a landscape painting, the trees are put in any location. You can put them at distance, in the middle distance or in the foreground. Only you would remember that the distance of the tree in a scene is pivotal. And more importantly, these trees should not look generic or pasted on a canvas or paper.

It would not be necessary to become stylish while painting. Do not paint the complexity. Just be simple. It would pay in long run. Take it for granted. Just draw the proper shapes and natural-looking branches of the tree. That should be sufficient. 

Let us talk about the colours. An experienced artist would vary the tonal values and shades of colours to be applied as per the distance of the trees from the viewers' eyes. With the difference in the tone and texture and the intensity of colours, the viewers would come to know that how far the trees are situated. It helps in creating a feeling of distance and volume. If the right tonal effect is given, if your colouring method is proper, then it would positively create a sense of distance in the eyes of the art-lovers.

Painting the trees at a Distance: If you ask me how I look at the trees, I would say that I look at the tree with one eye at a time. Yes. Close your one eye and see the scene. Thereafter close another eye and look at the scene. You can see with both the eyes half-closed. That is a great technique. You would feel the proper brightness of the light and the natural colours of a landscape folded before your eyes. 

Under the Blossom that Hangs on the Bough
John William Godward

The Distant Trees: Now let us discuss the trees which are at a distance from us. From our experience, we know that as the object goes away from our eyes, we can see less detail about it. Thus while painting the trees which are at a sizable distance from us, we should make them loaded with lesser details. That's the golden rule. Now select the colours. If these trees, the distant trees, are painted in grey and blue tones, it would be ideal. These colours would not add many details. You can use your imagination. Freedom is yours. Just follow the rule of the colour scheme.

In the case of the distant tree, mere painting the silhouette would be sufficient in most of the cases. It would not be necessary to make these trees more outspoken, you know. We do make things painted with many details only when the objects are competing with each other. The trees at a distance would not be competing with other objects in the near vicinity, so far their looks are concerned. 

The Cornfield John Constable
National Gallery, London
Painting the trees in The Middle of Canvas: In most cases, while an artist paints landscape, she or he would prefer to place the tree and other vegetation in the middle distance. Isn’t it? Okay. So it would be necessary to decide on the exact location. How far the objects are from the eyes: that would be the litmus test. Once it is decided that the tree or a particular tree would be in the middle of the scene, the colour scheme and the other aspects can be decided. Thereafter you can apply your preferred tonal values and the hues of the colours. Here the size of the brush also makes a difference. Be careful, if you use a flat brush, the total value would be different from the use of the round brush. 

You have seen how the trees painted in the middle distance would require precise treatment. Care will have to be taken regarding their shape, the colour-scheme to be applied, the tonal values to be ascribed, and the shades of colours. It would be crucial to know that the shades of the shadows that these trees create on the ground would be darker than the branches and leaves of the tree painted.

Mixing The Colours: The minute details like the precision in painting the leaves and branches would not be necessary. Were you to paint three trees in a far distance, the portion of the land would be painted with subdued green. Take a blob of vermilion (green) and add a tint of white into it; that will create a subdued colour. It would be a change if you add a tint of transparent golden yellow into the green. It would also make the green nicely subdued. It would start looking warmer, too. That would give a firm ground for the trees painted in the middle and the distance.

Look at the painting The Chestnut Trees of Jas de Bouffan in Winter done by the master artist Paul Cezanne. It is a winter-scape. You know, how the trees become leaf-less during the winter. Here the artist had painted that happening in an aesthetic manner.  Here the remaining part of the landscape, other than the trees, is painted featureless, too. This whole effort generates a feeling of winter. That is what a master artist do. If any beginner artist wants to paint such a painting, this painting would be the best sample to make a model. [All the images are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons].
The Chestnut Trees of Jas de Bouffan in Winter  Paul Cézanne Oil on canvas
Minneapolis Institute of Art  MinneapolisMinnesota, United States

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