• Shawn Dell Joyce artist

Painting Trees

Painting Palms and trees with Shawn Dell Joyce


Treat trees as value masses and start with your darkest darks and get them down first:



Start by laying in your darkest darks-here I’m using warm darks; violet and black


Next add cool colors in the under growth of the palm, here I’m using blue violet.



Next lay in the cast shadows and trunk using cooler colors. Break them up with warm greens for grasses.



Finish off with a few light highlights where the sun hits the top of the palm. Here I’m using warm yellow and yellow/white. Some tips for painting trees

· When painting trees, try to break everything down to values. Don’t paint individual leaves, use mark-making to give the impression of leaves and fronds.


· Use bold colors instead of black, dark green and light green, look closer and see the color temperature of what you are painting. Are the sunlit leaves actually yellow? Are the shadows cooler than the color of the trunk? Try to use juicier colors, and color temperature to help describe the form of the tree. Some colors I use are:

-cool flesh tones for dry fronds and trunks

-lemon yellow and yellow-green for sunlit grasses at the base and leaves or fronds lit by the sun

-violet for shadow colors (blue violet especially)


· For a really fun experiment try painting a tree without using any green!


Misty Morning (Benedict Park) Pastel 16x20 available at Wallkill River School in Montgomery NY


Trees group together in the distance become a tree line. When painting a tree line, make sure they are not all exactly the same. Have some that are taller, wider, shorter, etc so that they look more natural. Light will fall on them differently so make sure you have some variations:


Shawangunk Ridge, Pastel 12x36 private collection

When painting fall color in trees, try to have multiple colors in any given tree so that it’s not all uniformly yellow, or orange. Have trees that have a bit of all fall colors at once, especially when the trees are in the foreground or middle ground.


Add a little red into the trees to separate dome of the warm greens from the cool greens. If you mix the red into the green it will neutralize and give you a violet color which warms up the green. This also works in pastel.



You want your greens to be varied in terms of color temperature; warmer yellow-greens, normal greens, and cooler blue-greens (aqua, teal, viridian). Think of the difference between a bowl of iceberg lettuce and a bowl of mesclun lettuce. We want all our trees to look more like mesclun than iceberg!


Spanish moss is all over the place in Florida and helps to break up the greens in the trees. Use mark-making to get the texture of the moss, and let it drip in long tendrils that catch the light and color of the sun. Spanish moss gives you an opportunity to add color to the canopy.


"Stalker" Pastel 18x24 Private Collection

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