In this blog post, I will demonstrate how to paint autumn poplar trees and give you tips on painting broadleaf trees and mixing autumn colours. The willows and poplars inspire this painting in the Glenorchy area of New Zealand. The tree in the painting is a Lombardy poplar, the central area of interest in the composition.
Here are some reference photos I took and used in this painting. Please feel free to use or copy these photos if you would like to have a go at painting this artwork.
I painted this artwork using oil paint, and the colours I used in this painting are as follows:
- Titanium white
- Burnt sienna
- Yellow ochre
- Cadmium yellow
- Cadmium orange
- Alizarin crimson
- Ultramarine blue
- Phthalo green
Here is a list of the brushes I used in this painting:
- No.5 flat
- No.3 flat
- No.2 flat
- No.3 filbert
- No.0 round
Sketching the Composition on the Canvas
I am painting on an 8” x 10” linen panel. The panel is pre-made with a medium weave linen that is oil primed. These panels are perfect for creating small artworks and studies and are also great for painting en plein air.
I sketched the composition using a No.1 round brush with burnt sienna mixed with Liquin Original (Liquin). I am using Liquin as a medium to thin the paint, which also speeds up the drying time.
Paint Your Dark Values and Shadows First
Whenever I start a painting, I identify where the dark values and shadows are first in my painting scene. Value refers to how light or dark a subject is, and by painting in the dark values, it is much easier to create atmospheric perspective in your painting. It also makes it easier to add the areas in light and to get the saturation of your colours correct once you have painted your dark values.
I painted the background mountain using a mix of ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, alizarin crimson and titanium white. I use the same colours for the cloud shadows but with more titanium white.
I mix yellow ochre, alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue to paint the shadows in the tree foliage of the Lombardy poplar. As yellow is a light-value colour, the clouds in the tree canopies are also likely to be lighter in weight than if the foliage was still green.
The shadows in the vegetation in the foreground are a mix of ultramarine blue, yellow ochre and burnt sienna.
Painting the Sky and Clouds
Now that the main areas of shadows have been established, I work back in the scene, starting with the zone that is furthest away, the sky and clouds. I painted the cloud highlights with titanium white and a little burnt sienna.
The sky is a mix of ultramarine blue and titanium white.
Art Tip: Skies and clouds are often some of the lightest values to be found in the landscape.
Painting the Foliage
I paint the foliage in the full sunlight on the Lombardy poplar and willow trees using a mix of yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, cadmium orange and titanium white. I have used a little more cadmium yellow and titanium white for the willow trees in the mix.
Painting the Branches and Stems
I paint the shadows in the willow trees using a mix of yellow ochre, ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. I also use these same colours for the grass and vegetation in the foreground.
So far in this painting, I have been using No.5 flat brushes as this help to produce painterly gestural marks that are great for grass, vegetation and leaves.
I paint the suggestion of a network of stems and branches in the Lombardy poplar tree using a mix of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna.
I added more details to the tree canopy, where I mainly painted lighter tones within the shadow areas to communicate some reflected light. I also add more information to the grass and vegetation in the foreground.
At this point, I allowed my painting to dry so I could add more details later on.
Completing the Painting
Now the painting is dry, I added further details and tidied up the image overall. I added fresh layers of paint to the sky and clouds using the same colours I used during the blocking-in stage. I also paint some sky holes within the tree canopies; these are gaps within the trees where the sky and background mountains are visible.
Art Tip: Always save your lightest values until the end of the painting.
I add my lightest values to the tree canopies using a mix of yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, cadmium orange and titanium white. I have combined more cadmium yellow and titanium white to create lighter values for the tree foliage highlights.
I paint a little more reflected light in the shadow areas of the foliage in the Lombardy poplar tree using a mix of yellow ochre, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue and a little cadmium yellow.
I finished the painting by adding details to the grass and vegetation in the foreground using a varying combination of yellow ochre, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and titanium white.
Thanks for reading 😊