autumnal painting study

Study: Autumn Tree

I'm working on a painting that is based on my idea on fairy penguins: penguins who live in New Zealand and have their own little peaceful world.

The only problem is that I'm struggling with painting the grass. While I have the clouds down (I think they look pretty dynamic like that, sort of a mix between cumulus and cirrus clouds) it's tough doing the grass and mountains.

So, I tried to for inspiration and tips by other artists, but no go. But one artist struggled as well, so what they did was do a few studies to get the hang of things. I thought this was a great idea. The masters of yore always did studies before they painted their marvelous works, because it really helps you get your lighting, shading and composition down. Mine is a little rusty after working on solely medical illustrations, and I haven't painted landscapes in a very long time so it's good to de-rust myself.

This is an autumnal scene study that I whipped up from studying a photo (the photo I used as reference). It was a challenge at first.

autumnal painting study

The first step, as in any piece of art I do, was paint the sky and clouds. No big deal, this took less than 10 minutes. Next, I laid down the foundations for the grass. I made it a light yellow, which wasn't a good idea because on closer inspection the ground is littered with fall leaves ( a dark ruddy colour), so I got rid of the yellow base, and made it dark red/brown.

autumn study sketch

How was I going to make the fall leaves? I don't have a brush to do it easily in paint tool SAI, and I don't feel like making one in photoshop (I'm a lazy, impatient artist most of the time). Easiest way it to just use the solid ink brush and dot it around. I like dotting, it looks unique and it's easy but tedious (amazingly, I'd rather dot than spend 10 minutes making a reasonable PS brush to solve my problem). Besides, I have more control over the speckle composition rather than using a special brush.

Unfortunately I'm an artist who can't seem to focus on one part of the painting at a time, so while I was working on the grass, I went to make that big tree. Trees come easily to me, probably because the quicker you make their shape the more natural they look. So... as I said, I'm impatient and I like to see results right away. Trees give me that. But while the trunk is fun to draw, the foliage is a little less fun.

To make it look a little gappy, I figured out to use the eraser tool set to the same brush as I set for painting the foliage. Looks good. I also used the ink pen to create separate leaves here and there, and to high light parts of the foliage on the main tree. You really have to go fast with these dots to make them look natural and a little swept up.

Next up were the trees in the background. Well those don't have to look perfect.

Here's a segment of the picture zoomed in 100%. Pretty messy. That's why you never look at art up close, unless you want to learn how the artist did it!

painting close up brushes


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