Winter brings out the true character of a tree, exposing every branch, every twig. It reveals the very essence, divulges hidden secrets, and leaves you in a trance as you try to follow one branch with your eyes…from the trunk to the very tip of its tiniest twig. It’s a challenging maze and no two trees are the same.
It is perhaps that challenge of recreating the spirit of the tree on paper which brings me so much joy, but I can only fully understand it in the wintertime. Exposed and silent, it confesses that spirit and somehow I feel as if I’m communicating with its Creator.
That is the mystery of art. Although done in solitude, you are not alone. Your creativity begins a conversation with nature and with God and the best part is, they speak in return.
This apple tree had the setting sun turn selected twigs a golden yellow, while others blushed with rose, and yet a few had a cobalt glow. A downy woodpecker feasted on the suet cake at the feeder, filling up before twilight. That’s the story it told me.
On another day, I chose to study this mulberry tree by drawing in graphite with branch pencils my daughter gave me for Christmas.
Neat pencils! It’s like I’m drawing a branch with a branch.
This winter mulberry tree has a hard lean to the right. Most of it’s branches grew from the right side. To the left of the mulberry tree is a thick evergreen tree. There is struggle for sunlight, resulting in the mulberry’s shape and that’s the story the mulberry tells me.
Let’s go out and paint nature, but more importantly let’s hear the stories nature is trying to tell us. Enjoy.
Posted in art, Artwork, God, nature, sketch book, sketchbook, watercolor sketching
Tagged apple tree, art, Artwork, branch pencils, drawing, mulberry, painting, sketch, sketchbook, tree, watercolor, winter
The Chicago area has been hit by two significant snow storms since winter started. I love snow. Not only is it soothing to watch as it descends, but it dresses the winter trees in their formal attire. How beautiful. Each and every one dazzles.
So, let’s paint a winter tree during an enchanted nighttime snow storm!
I do not have a reference photo but the technique will work with any deciduous winter tree.
Step 1: Draw your tree on a 140lb coldpress watercolor paper with a pencil. My paper size is 6×9. The focal point is the tree itself so in the composition law of thirds, I wanted the tree to fill 2/3 of the paper.
Step 2: Using masking fluid, paint where the snow would land on the branches. I covered the tops of almost every branch. Let completely dry. If you do not wait until it is completely dry, you will ruin your brush. You can make sure it is dry by lightly touching it after about 10 minutes.
Step 3: We are going to paint the sky wet on wet. Using a 1″ flat brush with clean water, wet the paper in the area of the sky and the tree. Brush right over the dried masking fluid. Make sure you do not skip around and leave dry spots. When the shine on the paper disappears, paint ultramarine blue on top and bottom of sky and mauve in the middle. Let the colors blend and touch. You’re literally laying down a few brush strokes and stepping away. Do not over work this.
While the paper is still wet, sprinkle a little bit of sea salt on the paper and let completely dry. When dry tilt your paper and discard the salt.
Step 4: Paint the tree starting at the bottom and work your way up. I used a medium round brush. If you look at the base of the tree I started with a mixture of sepia and ultramarine. As I work my way up, I added mauve to that sepia/ultramarine mixture, then viridian green, lastly at the top alizarin crimson.
Using a small round brush, paint in smaller branches repeating the colors we already used.
Step 5: Rub the masking fluid off with your finger. Paint shadows under the tree using the same sky color on top.
Step 6 Final: Using a small round brush paint a light mixture (meaning less pigment and more water) of prussian blue where the snow touches the branches, making a fine line. This is the shadow color of the snow on the tree.
When everything is dry, take a #3 black micron pen and draw tiny branches/twigs coming from the small branches. Outline the trunk and main branches of the tree to make it stand out.
I hope you enjoyed this free step-by-step demonstration of how to paint a nighttime winter snowstorm.
If you would like to purchase a greeting card ($4.95) or archival print click below. Thank you!
Posted in art, Artwork, Chicago, nature, watercolor painting, weather
Tagged art, Artwork, Christmas, free step by step painting demonstration, how to, how to paint, how to paint a winter tree, nature, night watercolor scene, nighttime painting, painting, snow, tree, watercolor, winter, winter tree
Rain. Beautiful rain.
Straight down it was…no meandering, no skewing, no divergence, no wind. Tapping on leaves in trees creates a sound as if hundreds are clapping. My spirit is clapping.
I try to hear splashes in the puddles but cannot. The clapping overtakes the moment and I get lost in the mystery of His design.
And a few more leaves change colors.
Posted in art, Artwork, Chicago, God, nature, Nature Sketching, sketch book, sketchbook, storm, watercolor sketching, weather
Tagged art, Artwork, autumn, journal, nature, painting, rain, sketch, sketchbook, storm, tree, watercolor, weather
I’m having a difficult time feeling as alive as summer does. That’s as honest as the sun is hot. I sit in amazement watching bright yellow American Goldfinches flit from purple thistle to purple thistle, always singing a cheery tune. I notice insects scampering with excitement. Butterflies flutter in a swirling dance. I see fish jump and flip above the water surface as if playing just for the fun of it.
The energy of summer escapes me. I feel more like winter, wanting to retreat more and more. But being in the middle of nature, drenched in all of its energy is good. An ounce of it sticks with me without even realizing it. It is good. It is uplifting and I must do more of it.
Posted in art, Artwork, nature, Nature Sketching, sketchbook, watercolor painting, watercolor sketching
Tagged american goldfinch, art, nature, painting, sketch, sketchbook, summer, tree, watercolor
Did you ever hear someone groan when it started to rain?
“Oh MAN!” They might sigh, “Why does it have to rain? It messes up my day. I hate rain.”
Oh, but the beauty! So gentle, so rare…..if you look for it.
See past the sunless gray sky. See past the soggy ground. See past not having to escape the house without a coat. Look deeper and be amazed, for little blessings are in all places waiting to be uncovered.
The rain lasted for hours, but something magical happened. The raindrops held on to every branch on this paper birch and became illuminated with light from behind. Suddenly, the tree was adorned with stings of diamonds everywhere.
It stole my breath.
I bet it would have stolen yours as well had you witnessed this gift in person. Well, I’m happy to offer it here…to send you a sparkle of joy. But oh how cameras cannot do justice!
We are blessed with the sunset. We are blessed with the smallest of flowers, and yes, we too are blessed with the rain.
Enjoy the gifts.
Posted in art, Artwork, Chicago, God, nature, Nature Sketching, Paint His Love, sketch book, sketchbook, watercolor painting, watercolor sketching, weather
Tagged art, Artwork, diamonds, journal, nature, painting, rain, sketchbook, spring, tree, watercolor