How to Paint Shrubbery Using Acrylic Paints

I am an artist, and my speciality is painting trees, shrubbery and flora. But my real passion is painting trees! Tress are an everyday sight, but are often overlooked as a source of inspiration for artists and photographers. But when painted, they can portray many different feelings. Depending on the composition, painting technique, texture, colour etc, the painting can render feelings from strength and energy to calm and peaceful.

One of the key elements when painting trees is to capture the strength and structure of the trunk and the irregularity of the branches. This is done by really working on the composition of the tree- exaggerating the contours of the branches in order to accentuate the overall shape. Play with the branches overlapping each other. Don't worry about drawing any leaves, shrubbery or flowers yet- the overall 'shapes' of the tree is so important. If your primary intention is to portray the strength of the tree, then make the out-line as angular as you dare. If you are wanting to create a more calm painting, then it is important to focus on the flora/fauna.

Once you have arranged and line drawn (in pencil) the overall composition of the trunk and branches, the next step is the paint the background- which usually in the case of painting trees will be the sky. This shouldn't be as textured as you will be painting the branch and leaves, as it is obviously in the background and should just be a subtle build-up of colour. Maybe a lovely blue, with white gently swirled in. Or a more dramatic blue/grey. The next step is to start layering your trunk and branches with paint. Go for the darkest brown that you want in your picture, and then you will build up with the lighter colours until you finish with streaks of silver and gold. The key factor here is TEXTURE!!!! Look closely at a tree trunk- it is all about texture and subtle colours. Trees are never just brown like you might think- there is often a subtle array of colours ranging from browns (obviously!), creams, moss green, bottle green, grey, lilac, white, black, silver, copper, gold.

So gradually build up the texture. I like to slap on the paint thickly, and then drag a comb that I have cut small, through the paint to create ridges. Experiment with this, you want to create as much texture as possible- think of the bark of a tree. And build it up slowly. If you know there are parts of the trunk/branches that will be covered with foliage or flowers, then don't build the texture up too much here otherwise it will be difficult to paint over.

Once you are happy with the above, move on to the flowers/leaves/foliage. Again, this is all about texture as well. But it is more haphazard than the trunk and branches. Paint with passion and don't worry about where you are necessarily putting the flowers or leaves. Nature is itself haphazard! I use a couple of paintbrushes here. A fan shaped one for the foliage background, then I build it up using a smaller rounded brush that I use to really 'splodge' the paint on thickly. Keep going till you are happy. Stand back and look long and hard at your painting. Look where, if any, you have painted the clouds in the background. Is there anywhere you think the sun should be shining on the trunk or foliage? If so, add specks of light to the foliage, and streaks of light to the trunk and branches. Finish off by adding a few streaks of silver and gold to the trunk and branches. Create as much depth to the painting as possible, by emphasizing the highlights and shadows.

Finally, always, always varnish. I like a satin finish, but the choice is yours. Above all else, don't be too rigid when painting trees and shrubbery- remember you are painting nature, and nature is unpredictable!

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