Let’s Paint Storm Over Autumn Tree!

Do you remember my hike at Bullfrog Lake after an intense but brief storm? Well, one tree in particular caught my eye. It is a tree which possesses such character, that it stops you dead in your tracts. It catches you staring at it for several minutes straight, like a bad behavior…but it doesn’t mind, for it knows your reverence is pure. Here is the photo: 

Bullfrog Lake Tree photo


At the edge of water, it stands, just beginning to turn for autumn. Let’s appreciate the creation of this tree by painting it in pastels and keeping a little souvenir forever! Here we go… 


Step 1: I am using an Ampersand Pastelbord, 11×14. I draw a road map with charcoal pencil. Much of this will be covered, but I don’t mind, I just need a simple sketch. 


Step 2: WOW! Storm clouds…how awesome! In this step I used watercolors to make a nice background sky. I mixed ultramarine blue, mauve, and burnt sienna. I sprayed the board with a mist of clean water, then painted sweeping streaks of my purple mixture. More color on top and less on the bottom with right diagonal strokes to represent sheets of rain. In a matter of seconds, we created a mysterious atmosphere, this is so much fun! 


Step 3: I ran to the bathroom to plug in my hairdryer and dried my board…I couldn’t wait patiently for the next step! When everything was dry, using watercolors I painted the background trees in ultramarine blue, the grass in sap green, yellow ocher, and sienna, and the tree in a mixture of indigo blue and sap green. I also added alizarin for the Virginia Creeper crawling up the tree. Don’t forget to leave some sky holes. 


Step 4: We are done with the watercolors, we can put them away. When your board is dry (how can you tell when it is truly dry? The board will not feel cold to the touch.) you can start to apply soft pastels. In this step I used a dark purple for shadow, medium green and a lighter green. I am using Rembrandt landscape pastels. Don’t cover everything, for your tree needs to be able to breathe. 


Step 5: In this step I highlighted the top of the tree with a light ochre green. It gives it nice dimension. I also used a deep dark blue to make some branches. The trunk at the base is a medium gray pastel. 


Step 6: Developing the Virginia Creeper. In this step I took a deep burgundy pastel and painted where the Virginia Creeper grew. Next, I highlighted it with a medium purple to give it some punch. I also highlighted the top with yellow-green and yellow-ochre. 


Step 7: Time to get crazy now! Go wild and let your colors shine through. In this step I used orange pastel to highlight the mid section and a bright yellow to highlight the top. I found the perfect bright red to represent the Virginia Creeper bright spots. WOW! It’s all coming together now! 


Step 8 Final: In this step I covered the grass with green, brick red, and yellow pastel. I used a purple/gray for the shadow under the tree. Yes, even though it is cloudy out, you always need a bit of a shadow under objects. If you exclude shadows, even on a day without sun, your subjects will appear to float. In this step I also created the bush under the tree using the same dark, medium, and light ochre greens as I used in the tree. Don’t forget, your bush needs a shadow too. We’re done! We caught a moment in time, stopping the weather and stopping autumn…just for a second! 

“Changing Weather Changing Tree”

The original will be available at the Little Red Schoolhouse Art Fair on Sunday, October 3rd, where I will be from 9am-4pm. 

If you are interested in an acid-free archival print right now, click on the picture:
Art Prints 

I hope you enjoyed this free step by step painting demonstration on how to paint a storm over autumn tree at Bullfrog Lake.


  1. Very nicely done, I work primarily in watercolors but like the added touch of the pastels, the tree looks so real better than the photo of it!

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