Paint an Autumn Tree in Acrylic With Lee Hammond

Learn how to paint an autumn tree in acrylic with this free demonstration from North Light’s Paint Landscapes in Acrylic With Lee Hammond.

Materials
Paints: Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Ivory Black, Prussian Blue and Titanium White
Brushes: 1-inch (25mm) flat, no. 2 flat bristle, no. 2 liner, no. 2 round bristle
Surface: Canvas or Canvas paper: 12″ °— 16″ (30cm °— 41cm)
Other: Mechanical pencil, small piece of cellulose, kitchen sponge (optional)

1. Apply the Basecoat
The Sky
Draw in the horizon line slightly below the center mark. Mix
a small amount of Prussian Blue into white, and apply it with a
1-inch (25mm) flat using horizontal sweeping strokes. For subtle
clouds, add a bit of white and let it become streaky.
The Foreground
Add Cadmium Yellow Medium to the sky mixture to create
chartreuse-green. With the 1-inch (25mm) flat, apply this to the
foreground. Create the sidewalk with white and a touch of black.
The Background Trees
Scrub in the illusion of background trees using this same
chartreuse green mixture and a no. 2 flat bristle. Vary the colors
by adding more yellow for the lighter ones and a touch of Burnt
Umber for the darker one on the left. With Burnt Umber, add
the darker color in front of the background trees and along
the sidewalk.
The Main Tree
Apply the trunk of the tree with a no. 2 liner. Slightly dilute
Burnt Umber and Alizarin Crimson, and pull the stroke upward
from the base. Apply small strokes to create the branches. With
a no. 2 round bristle, dab the look of foliage. Start with Burnt
Umber for the darker colors underneath. Add a small amount
of Cadmium Yellow Medium to the Burnt Umber for the lighter
brown. Add that on top with the same dabbing method. Lighten
the color once more by adding a small amount of Cadmium
Red Light for an orangey hue. Add some pure Cadmium Yellow
Medium to the mix for some highlights.

2. The Awkward Stage
The Background Trees
Build up the background trees a little more using a no. 2 flat bristle. Create darker
shades of green by mixing some black into the light green color you used first. Use the
scrubbing technique for adding more color. Because they are in the distance, they lose
the small details.
The Main Tree
Once the background trees are complete, add more layers to the main tree using
a no. 2 round bristle. Use the same colors as before, alternating dark and light. Use a
kitchen sponge for a more textured look.
The Shadows
Add the shadow below the tree with a dark green mixture (Cadmium Yellow
Medium with a touch of Prussian Blue and a bit of black) using a no. 2 flat bristle. Use
this to suggest the pine tree peeking in on the left, too. Add a touch of the reddish
colors below the tree on the ground next to the shadow. Use the same colors as you
did for the foliage.
Leafy Tree Hints
The dabbing technique is primarily
used for painting this type of leafy tree.
Try a small piece of sponge to dab on
the color. Tearing the sponge, rather
than cutting it, produces a ragged edge
that creates irregular shapes. Vary
the shapes. Leaves appear in clumps.
They fill in and overlap one another,
creating groups and layers with areas
of sky that show through, and you can
see the branches of the tree going
in and out of the leaves. If you fill in
things too much, mix more of the sky
color and dab it back in to open it up a
bit. I usually start with the darker colors
first—the colors that are seen in the
darker, recessed areas—then dab the
medium and light colors on top of that
to create the layers. Layer the colors
back and forth, adding dark and light
colors until you like the way it looks.

3. Finish
Finishing a painting is all about adding
layers.
The Background Trees
Add a bit more highlighting and
texture. Don’t overdo it, for they must
look farther away. Add a small amount of
Cadmium Yellow Medium to the trees on
the right.
The Main Tree
Once the background trees are
complete, continue filling in the main
tree, allowing it to overlap the trees in the
background and steal the show. Add a bit
of highlighting to the tree trunk to make it
look textured using a bit of the light green
used for the ground. Add some pure
Cadmium Red Light for more color.
The Ground
To detail the ground to make it look
realistic, use a no. 2 flat bristle and scrub
in various colors using a dry-brush application
for a speckled appearance. Start
with the lighter colors first (lighter green
and yellow tones). Apply them over the
chartreuse color already there. Return
to the shadow area and scrub in some
darker colors (black mixed into Burnt
Umber) on top of the dark green already
there. Don’t let this fill in too much. Like
foliage, you must be able to see the colors
underneath peeking through. Reflect
some red tones (Cadmium Red Light
and Cadmium Yellow Medium) into the
ground also.

And you’re finished! For the best of acrylic instruction from Lee Hammond, click here.

For more easy techniques for painting landscapes, check out Naturescapes by Terrence Lun Tse. And, don’t miss these additional acrylic painting resources!

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