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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bring it Forward: Adjustments to a Study of Trees

Every painting session teach you something, even the failed attempts teach you what to avoid, and how to make the bad better... In this practice study I did this week, things didn't go according to plan.

My reference photo is on the left. I liked the lost and found quality of the branches, so I didn't try to define them in a very structured fashion, I was just following the shapes, and introducing touches of color. I wanted my focus to on the trunk of the tree on the right.

When I stopped, I assessed the situation:
Good: The tree trunks looked quite nice, there was an interesting variety of color in them. I liked the pinkish hue in the background.
Bad: I overworked the sketch, as usual. The Indian yellow in the far tree was too distracting. The shadows on the ground were too fuzzy and muddled. And worse, the two main trees were side by side, it was unclear which took precedence, and that dragged the center of interest to the center of the painting, and made the composition flat and static.

This was just meant to be a study anyway, but I decided to make some further adjustments as a learning tool: To give the tree on the right precedence, I lengthened its trunk down to bring it forward. Next, I defined its branches better so they overlapped the tree on the left. And I added some directional lines with dry brush and some darker shadows, to give the tree more contrast.

A study of trees, watercolor on Arches paper, 6x9

Now the focus is clearer. While the improvement was only minor, it did teach me some do's and don'ts for my repertoire. That's what practice is all about!


  1. Hello Marcio. I have recently started following your blog and I am enjoying reading about your watercolor painting. There seem to be so many oil painters out there.

    You've done a good job of improving this study. The tree comes forward nicely now.

  2. Hi Keith, thank you for your comment and for following my blog. I'm glad you are enjoying the material posted here. I was reluctant to post something that wasn't successful, but now I'm glad I did, it is part of the learning process and it is good to share that.
    Please visit often, and comment if you can, I appreciate your feedback. --Marcio