Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Painting with Emma Rose

I'm currently in California. I flew out to LA to see my college roommate marry one awesome guy. It was a beautiful wedding and I got to visit with some favorite old friends. After the wedding my even older elementary school best friend picked me up for a few days visit out in southern California. I've been spending the whole time playing with baby Emma Rose. My friends recently moved into a new house and they had a lot of big open spaces on their walls. There's nothing I dislike more than giant white walls so we, and by we I mean me and miss Emma Rose, decided to paint a picture. I knew we wouldn't have much time so I picked an easy old favorite. My "Forest at Dawn" but this time done in acrylics rather than oils so the layers would dry in time. I'm sharing a step by step photo journal of how it's painted so you can try one for yourselves at home. It's actually a very easy, basic painting made by layering colors in organic tree-like shapes.

We started with a large canvas and 4 tubes of Acrylic paint. Yellow, Orange, Red and Burnt Umber. Emily already had some white paint white for the moon. And we needed 2 brushes. One really big one to lay in the large swatches and a skinny thin one for the trees. Acrylics are water based so you'll also need some water to thin the paint down and clean your brushes and some paper towels always come in handy. You'll also want something to mix the paint in. I just used aluminum foil wrapped around a platter but plastic plates work really well too.

(obviously you can mix yellow and red together to make your own orange. But I knew I'd be covering a large canvas and would need the extra paint so instead of buying extra yellow and red and just bought a tube of orange.)

You start by laying down a layer of yellow across the top with the big fat square topped brush. Leave a little round blank space for the moon. Then add in your orange. Mix some of the orange with the yellow to create a pale orange. Lay in a band of this orange with your big flat brush. Turn the brush sideways and paint in downward strokes to create the distant tree line. As you move down the canvas intensify the color to be pure orange with no yellow.

Then repeat this same process moving down the canvas with your red. Mix the red with the orange for the lighter top shade and then use just the red for the bottom most part. This light to dark effect is what makes the painting look like the sun is just rising behind the forest. You can paint in the white of the moon as soon as the yellow sky is dry.

Once you have the background laid in you can start with the tree details. You'll want to switch over to your small thin brush for the trees. You create the detailed trees by drawing long simple lines with the dark orange that overlap the lighter oranges and yellows. Then for the "branches" simply paint horizontal dashes and run down the length of the lines. I often angle them so the tips of the branches flair upwards. Be careful to vary the placement and thickness to create a more natural look. When painting nature you don't want things to look perfectly proportional or even.

I used the Burnt Umber for the closest trees. They are in the foreground so they are bigger and taller and more detailed. At this point you should also mix some of the dark brown with the red and layer in some dark foreground areas with your big flat brush. Careful not to create the dark areas all over in an even pattern. You want to create some variance so it doesn't look the same all the way across the canvas.

After you lay in the darker, more detailed trees you are done! You can add birds in the sky if you'd like but Emma and I decided to keep it simple today. We are surprising Marco, Emma's daddy with this large painting tonight. We hope he likes it!


  1. I think EmmaRose did a great job!

  2. I love the layers of colors particularly the red. A very beautiful and lovely work.


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