Painting winter trees in watercolour

Even in the heat of summer I enjoy painting winter trees. Perhaps it makes me feel cooler, or maybe long for the cooler months. Certainly they have the advantage that you can get away from all of those nasty greens!

I love getting out for these lovely early morning scenes when the light is really special – a quick trip out first thing can be extremely rewarding. In this small watercolour the more distant trees have been rendered in the same tone and colour – rather weaker than the main tree on the left, in order to push them further into the distance. With the large tree I painted the trunk with a number 4 round sable, changing to a number 1 rigger brush for the thinner branches. If you are not used to using a rigger it will take some practice to acquire the skill to draw accurately with it, but it really is worth persevering with the exercise as it gives excellent results once you become adept.

By putting more pressure on the rigger you will create a wider, stronger line, and correspondingly when you use a lighter touch you achieve a thinner result. This technique also works well on fracture lines in rocks and crags. Once I’ve delineated all the branches I then pick up some very liquid blue-grey colour with a number 5 or 6 brush – a weak mixture of French ultramarine and burnt umber works fine, but there are many alternatives – and with the brush on its side I place it on the extreme limit of the outer branches and brush inwards towards the centre of the tree, sweeping the brush off the paper at the same time. This creates a sense of massed twigs and fine branches and works well on NOT and rough paper surfaces. You will find this painting featured in my Complete Guide to Watercolour Painting

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