How to paint an Aspen Tree (or Birch)
I did this tutorial two slightly different ways. The video (linked below) shows one variation and this step by step post shows another.
My Chickadee painting tutorial (click here for that) and Cardinal painting tutorial (click here) are two of my most popular lessons this time of year. I shared a painting I had done of both sitting in an Aspen (Birch) Tree on Instagram and Facebook, which was a hit and it was requested I include how to paint the Aspen.
This is the painting I posted.
I painted this one on a faux crate type piece and the instructions for that are here, Faux Crate sign tutorial.
This step by step post is displayed on a 12″ x 12″ canvas for those that may wish to try another version.
I start with a white back stapled canvas, this one came from Michael’s in an economy pack. I love them for practicing and if you buy them with a coupon etc they are quite inexpensive.
I am going to start with a double load on a large 2 inch brush of Sky Blue and Wicker White. You can use any blue that you like, I just grabbed one I felt would make for a good background.
I am using the same technique to paint in the sky as I do in my Paint a Beach Scene post and video.
Once I have the sky filled in I let it dry (or speed up drying with an old blow dryer) and I mark off with white chalk where I want my Aspen trunk. I use a ruler in this post but on the video I show you another way I do it. Either will work.
Once I have my chalk marks drawn on I fill in the trunk with a gray or a tan color using my 3/4″ Brush. I do this for two reasons, it helps to get opacity faster than just white and it gives some under color for added texture to the end result.
Once the gray undercoat has dried on the Aspen trunk I come back in and go over it with white. I don’t try to cover it completely as I like some of the gray coming through in places slightly. In my video I also have a bit of Butter Pecan color mixed in to this undercoat and I really like the warmth it added to the finished painting.
I don’t bother with drying the white, I just come right back in with some of the gray mixed into my brush and start shadowing the right side of the trunk. I sweep the strokes and try to vary the length of the strokes. You can adjust the depth of the gray by adding a touch of black, and I mean a very little touch, if you wish.
Next I work a bit of Licorice Black into my brush and with the chisel edge I create little black slashes. I try to curve them a bit to mimic the curve of the trunk. The pressure of my brush creates different widths of slashes.
On this one I shadowed both sides of the trunk but in my original painting at the beginning of this post I only shadowed the right side. It’s your painting, you can choose what direction you want to go.
I make the slashes different lengths and try to space them randomly. We don’t want little soldiers marching in a row.
Now time for the branches. Double load your brush with the gray and white. Hopefully you can see that my brush has gray on one corner and white on the other, then I blended on my palette until they merge in the center. You can get an idea here also of how I do that, Basic Brush Strokes
Leading with the white, drag your brush on the chisel edge lightly in the direction you want your branch to go. Your branch with have both the gray and the white on it in a pleasing mix.
To highlight even more to mimic snow on a branch just tap in the white along the top of your branch with the chisel edge of your brush. (in my video I do the branches a bit differently but I like this method best)
To create the dimples where the branches emerge from the trunk use the corner of your 3/4″ brush and gray paint and brush on a semi-circle. If it is more comfortable you can swap out the flat brush for a round or liner brush.
That basically covers it. I displayed a very easy Aspen / Birch but if you want to you can add even more details. Look at pictures of these beautiful trees or other paintings to get some ideas. Some have bigger splotches of black here and there. Add leaves if you want a Spring type look etc. Make it your own and have fun!
Now you can add the Chickadee and Cardinal if you like. Just transfer the design to where you want them to sit and paint them in. I will link to those tutorials below.
Here is the video of me painting the Aspen on a Faux Crate end.
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