How to paint a mass of trees and shrubs on a river bank

The next step was to paint the mass of trees and shrubs on the right hand side river bank.

For this I used my hog hair fan brush which is not generally used as a watercolor (watercolour) brush but it comes in very handy in some instances. The trees that border this river are called Casuarina or Sheoak (their common name) and though people sometimes refer to them as the Australian pine they are not related to the Pine or Oak tree families. For our purposes however the direction and type of foliage resembles the pine more than the Australian eucalyptus trees and the fan brush is very useful in portraying their overall shape.

I painted this mass of trees and shrubs with the tip of the fan brush working from left to right, as I saw colors and shapes vary in my photograph I altered the colors and shapes in my painting without following it in detail. Basically I used the photo as inspiration not for representation! I took note of where there were dark (mainly lower down) and light shapes (mainly higher in the trees). I kept changing colors to add visual interest for the viewer.

The colors I used for the tree foliage are Cobalt Turquoise, Aureolin, French Ultramarine, Raw Umber and Burnt Sienna in various combinations to achieve the variety of colors you can see in the painting.

I painted quickly from left to right as I wanted to complete the overall shape of the mass to trees, before my watercolor paint lost its shine. I also made sure I left lots of bird holes in the foliage. Then I lightly sprayed my painting area with a fine mist bottle filled with water to allow me to keep working on the foliage area while I adjusted certain tones and shapes.

A quick dry brush stroke at the bottom of the foliage created the impression of grass underneath the trees along the river bank.

You will notice that I slightly increased the tones of the trees as I moved from left to right. However I kept in mind that the strongest tones were yet to come (on the left hand side river bank) so I did not go full strength when painting this first bank of trees.

The stronger you make the tones on the right hand bank will mean you have to go even stronger (less water in you paint mix) on the left hand side or you will lose some of the feeling of space in your landscape painting.

Let this dry thoroughly.

Watercolor painting of middle distance mass of trees with a fan brush along river bank

Watercolor painting of middle distance trees wtih a fan brush

I now painted the left hand side foliage. I used my fan brush for some of this and also used the side of a round watercolor brush to create the right hand edge of this foliage mass.

Notice the color variations from warm to cool. These variations were in the original scene but I enhanced them a little to aid my composition.

I made sure I left some bird holes in the foliage as these serve to break up the big shapes into more interesting smaller ones. Notice as well the darker tones and colors in the lower parts of the trees where you would expect more shadows and less light. I used some quick “dry brush” strokes to give the impression of shadow and surface objects at the bottom of the trees on the sand.

Let this dry completely.

Watercolor painting of foreground mass of trees with fan brush

Watercolor painting of foreground trees with a fan brush

Now that this mass of trees and shrubs has been painted on the river bank the next step is to paint their reflections.

Continue to: Watercolor painting of reflections on river.