Seeing: Trees

web down the street

Layers of trees


It’s rained enough around our area for lush foliage to develop on our trees. The street behind the studio is an excellent example of a lovely variety of trees.

As we paint our landscapes with trees it’s important to understand how the foliage is shaped and shaded to create volume and interest.

web tree

Notice the shape and layers of the branches creating depth in the tree.

Each species of tree has it’s own shape, density, and height. Knowing this about any specific tree will help in creating your painted vision. In the large tree to the right notice the height of the tree as compared to the cars. The trunk is straight and large enough to support the branches and leaves above it. Next notice that the leaves are clustered along branches that you may not be able to see. The leaves do not create a solid shape but have shadows and lights according to the limb to which they are attached. Next, we are able to see some of the branches through the leaves (see photo below), which helps our eye, and therefore brain, to realize that the tree has some leaves on the near side of the tree, some inside, and on the far side of the tree creating volume. As we paint this tree’s foliage we need to visualize and create with our brush the clustered leaves along each branch, the lights and darks that create volume and depth. Your tree will begin to emerge.

web branches


You will either have started with the trunk or add it as you develop your tree. After your leaves are painted you will then add some inside branches to create depth. Then add lights and darks along the trunk, depending on your light source.


web trunk and branches

The barks of trees have different textures as do these trees outside the studio.

web Maple

And we have a variety of textures in the foliage.

web evergreen


As you are outside start really looking at the trees around you. Actually see the shape, volume, values, and textures as you study the trees. Notice color variations and how the trees layer with each other. Photos make great references. Start a photo reference library if you don’t already have one.

While you are looking, start “seeing”.

This is the beginning or our “See while you are looking” tutorials.

I hope you’ve found this tutorial helpful.

Enjoy,  Liz