by Fred Kingwill, landscape artist and teacher
Trees are often a great challenge for watercolorists and when you try to put some snow on them, it can be just frustrating! But, there is hope…
First of all, like everything we paint, you have to really “LOOK at them”! Many see trees, particularly evergreens, like the illustration on the left. But, actually most trees have a skeleton or branches/trunk, more like the drawing on the right. The branches grow up towards the sun and eventually they begin to drop and droop down. Check it out!
Try these exercises:
First do a simple drawing of the “skeleton” of three trees in pencil.
Next, grab some MASKING FLUID, (I like Pebeo), and put some snow shapes on some of the branches. Snow is not just a round blob but it has “fingers” that drop down through the branches, etc. I use an old brush, a stick, or even a chopstick to make the snow shapes. If you use a good brush, be sure to soap it before applying the mask and clean it immediately when done to avoid your tears.
Now we are ready to paint the needles on the trees AFTER the mask has dried. Used a dark green to paint right over the mask and keep in mind that the branches mostly grow UP and the edges are SHARP. When all is dry, remove the masking and paint the white “snow” with a light blue like cerulean. Leave a few whites on the top of the snow, too, to make it look real.
Now finalize the painting with some details around the now “Blue” snow and the edges of the tree. Use a dark green or even black to do this. It should now be looking like your next holiday card! Give one final sweep with a cerulean charged one inch flat brush pulled horizontally across the bottom with a “dry brush’ technique and that should do it. If you want to some more FUN, throw some salt on the snow when wet and use a razor blade to scratch some icicles on the trees.
Here are some more ways to make the illusion of snow on trees:
Draw the trees and indicate with your pencil where you would like to have the snow show. Paint the trees leaving those “negative” spaces the color of the paper. When dry, you can go ahead and paint the snow shapes with some blue. Some think this is easier than using masking fluid.
This next one is easy. After you draw the tree “skeletons”, paint some blue snow shapes on the trees. Just the blue shapes first and then, when dry, go ahead and paint the foliage on the tree.
Finally, paint the three trees in a WET INTO WET manner. Wet the entire area first, then be careful to wait until the paper has begun to lose it shine (not too wet) before you start to paint the trees. Then, when dry. you can use white opaque paint to put some snow on the trees. You can also use a razor blade to scratch some snow or icicles…
WAY TO GO!