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Fantasy Art Tutorials in the FARP Section

By:-) Alisa Simonoff, Gallery 259.

Trees in Acrylic

   I personally feel that acrylic is the easiest medium to use to paint foliage. I use to watch Bob Ross a lot and was utterly amazed how he does his landscapes...not so much his building, through. So I use his technique quite a bit. I just alter it from oil to acrylic. However, don't think I'm just going to go Bob Ross on you. I have a few tricks of my own up my sleeve.


    1. Brushes are pretty much required to paint with acrylics. I use a soft 1 in. flat for skies and blending, a #6 bristle brush useful for painting foliage and trunks and #4 and #8 round for branches and leaves. There is also my well-loved fan brush, which is an absolute must for painting foliage. I also have a small liner brush that I use to paint small limbs and flowers.
    2. When painting you'll need, of course, paints! I use Winsor & Newton Galeria acrylics, because my wallet won't support the really expensive paints. I'm thinking the season of this painting is late summer, so my palette is predominantly greens. They are sap green, phthalo green and permanent green light. My greens are expanded by the addition of yellows, reds and blues. Umbers and siennas are good for the trunks and I finish off with white.
    3. A pencil that is not too soft for drawing in outlines. #2 works fine.
    4. An eraser to erase any lines you don't want. You'll paint over them, but I don't like extra confussing lines.
    5. You'll also need a painting surface. I use canvas, but you could use pretty much anything as long as you prime it first.

Step 1:

   When painting it always helps to remember to work from back to front. I could shoot myself in the foot for all the times I painted the foreground first. So it makes sense to paint the sky first, all the way down to the horizon line. I add in some "happy" clouds with white and a combination of yellow ochre/violet. When that is dry I take my pencil and draw in the outlines of tree trunks, bushes, shrubs etc, etc. I love water so I leave most of the foreground blank for a little lake.


Step 2:

   I paint in the trunks first then switch to the fan brush to add foliage. Add in the darks first then place a middle color over them and finally the highlights. I take the fan brush and load it with my color, wiping off any extra paint, then spread the bristles and jab it on the canvas, changing the angle and pressure to vary the foliage. I did the fir trees in the behind the red tree with my bristle brush, wiping off most of the paint for a dry brush effect.


Step 3:

   These close trunks require more detail then those in the distance. The leaning tree on the left is unfinished to illustrate my process of painting trunks. I paint trunk with the darkest shadow, in this case a raw umber. Next I begin adding lighter color, blending it with the base coat. The trunk is smooth so the colors are blended smoothly. Keep in mind where the light source is coming from when adding the highlights.

When the bark is rough I still lay down the dark color, but when I add the highlights the colors are only slightly blended together.

The foliage is done the same way as the more distant trees, with a fan brush. I pay more attention to the placement of the foliage because there must be limbs to support the growth. If there aren't, the leaves will be floating in space and most likely look unreal.
   For foliage that is in the foreground and requires more detail I lay down my dark color then take the fan brush with a middle color and use it to define the mass and direction of my foliage. After that I abandon the fan brush and reach for my round. I use that to add in a few individual leaves, shown at the top of the front bush. The bottom of the bush just has the base and middle coat on so far.

The trees in this snippet of another picture were done the same way, with a few individual leaves built up on a dark base.


Step 4

   I am going to make the reflection as though a mirror like Mirror Lake in Yosemite park. I flip the canvas over and do my best to replicate the foliage as a reflection, working back to front again. For a blurrier reflection work on wet paint and slightly blend the reflected trees into the reflected sky. After that I flipped the canvas back over and added a few water lines.

Working quickly into wet paint makes a more distorted reflection.


And done!

All final details are added and the picture is signed. If you would like to view a larger version of this picture, just click here



Other Examples


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