Saturday, September 10, 2016

Oak Tree in Autumn

I stumbled across this image while going through some pictures and I thought it'd be an interesting one to try and paint.  I'm not disappointed.

Acrylic on 11x14 canvas

It was the first time that I looked and knew exactly how I would go about creating this image.  It would be a matter of working slowly, in layers.  I made sure to have a couple other projects on the go, since some of the steps were fairly short and if I'm going to sit down to paint, I like to be at it for at least an hour or so.

Step 1:

I started by filling in the sky with a wash of cerulean blue, if I recall (either that or cobalt. Can't remember offhand.)  I allowed myself to be pretty messy with this step, since about 90% of it was going to get painted over, but I wanted to make sure there were enough bits of visible blue sky peeking through.

I had started on step two before I got the idea to document my progress, hence the blotchy white in the corner.  Like I said, I let myself be very messy with this step.

Step 2:

Once the blue layer was fully dried, I went over it and filled in a good portion with some Titanium White, using a scumbling brush to make puffy, semi translucent cloud forms.  I added some neutral grey here and there to add lowlights to give the clouds some dimension. I tried not to fill in the entire canvas, as again, I wanted to make sure there was a good amount of visible sky.

Floofy clouds. Too bad most of this is getting covered up too.
Step 3:

Using Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Yellow, Raw Sienna, and Bronze Yellow, I added a layer of leaves. The main light source is coming in from the bottom-right corner, so I tried to make those leaves lighter and more translucent than the ones in the top right, which I gave more shadow and deeper coloring.

Step 4:

Using a combination of Burnt and Raw Umber, and a lot of retarder for flow, I blocked in the trunk and branches of the tree.  The original photo has more going on with some background trees, and a few branches that had fallen horizontally across the picture, but I left those out.

I seriously considered stopping at this stage. I really liked where it was, and was afraid of screwing it up. I'm glad I didn't though.
Step 5:

Lastly, using Unbleached Titanium, Raw Umber, Prism Violet and some Cobalt Blue in various mixtures, I added the texture of the bark, including some of the scars on the tree trunk.



  1. I love the way the bark looks - great job all around.

  2. Thanks! I'm really happy with this piece.


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