Archive for category Subject: Trees

Trees, Woodlands & Forests (What to Paint) || Geoff Kersey

As a simple guide to painting scenes in which trees are a major feature, this can’t be bettered. That seems like a rather restricted view, but it’s important to understand that this isn’t a guide to painting trees and it isn’t exactly a guide to painting them in the landscape either.

The What to Paint series is based around a series of 24 finished paintings with, on the opposite page, a general description of what they are and why and how they were painted, with detailed illustrations of specific features and a note of the colours used. Then, at the back of the book, you get outline drawings for each one that you can trace down onto your own paper. As these are printed on normal book paper this is a bit of a challenge, especially if you leave the sheets in the book. Remove them and, eventually, you’ll have torn out the whole of the second half, leaving it difficult to manage.

Although I get the general idea and I think it’s a worthy attempt, I can’t help feeling it’s ungainly and I’m really not certain whether this adds anything to the (in my opinion) much better Ready to Paint series. I presume that this is supposed to be the next stage up, but I can’t help wondering if the reader would have been better served with an extra page of technical instruction for each painting and ditch the tracings.

All that said, if you ignore those, I like the book and the work that Geoff has produced is nicely done and well varied.


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Drawing & Painting Trees in the Landscape || Claudia Nice

Books on trees are relatively few and far between and one that deals with them not as individual subjects but as part of a landscape where they are, nevertheless, something more than just a blob of colour in the background, is pretty much unique. When you add to that Claudia Nice’s way with colours and textures, you know you’re already onto a winner and this high level of expectation isn’t going to be disappointed.

Although the cover promises “more than 70 species of tree”, this isn’t really the point as it’s the shapes and colours that matter, as well as how trees appear in each of the four seasons, a neat summary of which you get on the very first page. The book begins with the technical stuff, introducing ways of working with pen and pencil before progressing to the colours of foliage and the texture of trunks. Further chapters concentrate on evergreens, deciduous hardwoods, flowering trees, and the colours of autumn and winter.

There’s a wide variety of styles here, and this is very much a book for the general painter who just wants to get the landscape right without worrying too much about the intimate details.

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Brushmarks For Trees || Bee Morrison

Bee Morrison has followed her excellent little book on flowers with one on the much less extensively covered subject of trees. Very few people set out to paint a tree as a subject in its own right, but they’re an essential element of any landscape. Get them wrong, however small they appear, and everything else will follow and your finished result will always fail.

If you’ve ever watched an instructional DVD, the chances are the artist has their own trick way of painting trees: look, you just do this, this and this and it’s a convincing-looking arboricus genericus. Start including woodlands or copses, or just a prominent hedgerow tree, however, and you also need to be aware of the basic shapes of oaks, ashes and elms at least. And then, of course, they all change their outlines in the different seasons from bare branches to hints of green shoots to the fully-dressed appearance of summer and the dying fall of autumn.

All this sounds very scientific and botanical, but the thing is that your viewers all know what a tree looks like. They may not be able to tell you anything about it, but they’ll sure as hell know if you’ve got even the tiniest detail wrong! So, does this mean you’d better give up landscape painting until you’ve been on a course? Well no because, as I hinted at the beginning, the tree isn’t your main subject. All you really need to know is the basic shapes and a few ways to get them right and looking realistic. Thankfully, this is largely a matter of brushwork, hence the title of the book.

Bee packs an enormous amount into 40 pages and gives you nice, large and clear illustrations, with the words kept to a minimum, so you really won’t have trouble following her or, probably, think that you ever need to buy another book on trees.

How to buy it

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Watercolour Trees & Woodlands: Ready To Paint || Geoff Kersey

Trees can be one of the most tricky subjects for the artist because, like flowers, everyone knows when you’ve got it wrong! For all that, there are relatively few books devoted to them, largely because they are more of a landscape element than a subject in its own right: painting a landscape, all you really need is a sufficient variety of generic types with or without foliage (according to the season). The details of how a hornbeam differs from a maple are really not relevant!

Given how early in their career beginners are going to encounter this problem, the Ready To Paint series really couldn’t be better suited to the subject of trees. The approach of a printed outline sketch that you can trace, itself linked to a series of very detailed step-by-step demonstrations makes learning the tricks of the trade a relatively painless process and you really do feel that someone is holding your hand all the way.

For some subjects, there have to be reservations about this approach and care has to be taken not to allow it to descend into painting by numbers, but here it’s in its element.

Search Press 2008

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The Watercolour A-Z Of Trees & Foliage || Adelene Fletcher

A renowned and popular teacher in the Surrey and Hampshire areas, Adelene Fletcher’s acclaim spread wider when she stared to appear in print.

This, her fourth book, is now available in paperback and was the successor to her excellent Watercolour Flower Painter’s A-Z. Not all that many books appear on painting trees and one of the best was Adrian Hill’s little drawing guide published by Blandford Press many years ago. The volume in question, although larger and more ambitious, is a worthy successor to that little gem.

One of the problems facing anyone planning a book of this type is that most artists don’t want to paint specific trees in the way that they might a flower. What they really want is to incorporate trees in the population of a landscape and have them look realistic and at the same time not to be too fussy and overworked. The trouble is that, although this is an art in itself, there isn’t really a book in it. Most books on landscape will have a go at trees, but the authors usually confines themselves to one general type and that’s all very well, but you do need a bit of variety or someone will think you’ve gone out and bought a rubber stamp!

I think that what makes this book work, in the end, is the fact that each example never extends beyond a double-page spread. That’s plenty for someone who isn’t making a lifetime’s study of an individual tree and it provides enough space to cover the basic shape in leaf and some foliage and flower or fruit details and a colour chart. Each section is completed with a further spread showing the species illustrated in a full-size painting, which will more than satisfy those who do want a little more detail.

The book covers 24 species, but you will find that some will be more familiar than others. The book is designed to have a market in the UK and the USA so each will have to look at some more exotic collections to be able to find every variety covered. This also means that you need to know which are your own native species or some of your woodlands might look a little, well, specialist, if an arboriculturalist starts looking to closely.

If you have even a passing interest in trees and you care about how you paint them, there’s much in this book of value and interest.

First published in paperback 2006

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Terry Harrison’s Watercolour Trees

There aren’t very many books just on painting trees. One of the best is a little book by Adrian Hill, published in the 1960’s by Blandford Press. The most comprehensive is Adelene Fletcher’s Watercolourist’s A-Z of Trees & Foliage which covers by far the widest range of specific varieties. Both of these books, however, tend to concentrate on the specific shapes of individual types of tree.

If this is their weakness, it also explains why there aren’t many books on trees. To put it simply, very few people want to paint a tree in the way they want to paint a flower; in general, trees are part of a landscape, nothing more. All they need to do is look reasonably convincing and they’re done their job, they’re a shape and not a lot else.

Trees basically have four different appearances, corresponding to the four seasons: in winter there are no leaves and you can see the branches, in spring there may be flowers, in summer the canopy is full developed and in the autumn the leaves have turned brown and started to drop off. Not a lot more you need to know, really, except that, where a tree appears, it needs to look like a tree and not just an attempt at a tree. You don’t need paint every leaf: from any distance they quickly merge into just patterns of light and shade and you also need to get the branches, if they’re visible, looking as though they’re growing naturally and aren’t just stuck on.

In just 48 pages, Terry Harrison will show you how to do all this. A short book can’t be laboured, so he gets to the point quickly and doesn’t overwork it. Terry sells his own range of brushes, so naturally these feature widely, but you can find similar alternative in any art shop (if you don’t have them already) or they can be ordered from

The book covers basic shapes, how to paint trunks, branches and foliage, trees in different seasons and concludes with more detailed studies of eleven specific varieties of trees which are painted in more detail and include apple, oak, pine and horse chestnut.

For a subject that won’t detain most people for very long, this book should be just about the right length and price and contain most of the information they need.

Year published: 2005
List price: £7.99

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