Painting trees and reflections with watercolor

The final steps in our watercolor painting are to paint the trees and their reflections upon the water.

Painting the trees against the sky

After the sky was fully dry. I then painted the distant tree line running some of the dead tree trunks into the water (this is why they are dead!).

The colors I used for the trees are French Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna, and a little Permanent Alizarin Crimson. Mix them to a creamy consistency.

Using the side of my number 8 round watercolor brush I lightly touched my watercolor paper in a random circular fashion to create the impression of distant living trees. I have written an article on this technique which you can read at this link: modified dry brush watercolor painting technique to create the impression of foliage.

I use the point of the same brush to paint in the dead trees in the water.

I keep referring to my photograph, for inspiration and ideas, as I paint this section.

Again I let this dry totally.

Painting lakeside trees with watercolor paints
Painting lakeside trees with watercolor paints

Painting the water and reflections of the sky and trees

The next stage should ideally be painted in one go. You should have a good amount of your pre mixed sky colors left in your palette. If not then remix similar colors or top up the ones you had left if you do not have enough to comfortably finish painting the water.

The dark reflections in the water were mixed with French Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna and a small amount of Permanent Alizarin Crimson – the same colors used for the trees.

I painted the water with horizontal brush strokes. Water reflections are normally a little duller than the object they are reflecting, in this case the sky. However this is not so noticeable here because of the dark sunset sky.

The water is painted with your board in a landscape position as you want the reflections of the distant trees to flow down. The important point is to make sure the reflection of the brightest part of the sky is under the same area of the sky. Remember, reflections are always towards the viewer – in this case the artist creating this watercolor painting.

While the lake area of our watercolor painting is still quite wet – the shine is still on the paper, I dropped in the soft edged reflections of the distant bushes and trees. Then after it had lost its shine I used a small brush with a good point, and very little water, to paint the soft edged reflections of the dead trees in the foreground. Use a mixture which is a little stronger (less water) than that used for the soft reflections of the distant trees and bushes. It is a good idea to practice this on a scrap piece of watercolor paper till you get the timing right. When you practice something like this make sure you use the same paper as the watercolor paper of your painting.

To give yourself more time when you paint the water, I suggest you give it a light spray as soon as you have painted the water surface. As long as you spray lightly you will not lose the highlights you should have left in the area reflecting the sun. In this way you will be able to drop in the soft reflections of the distant trees and then get ready to paint the dead ones in the water.

You can see the finished watercolor painting below in figure 5.

If you have any questions regarding this watercolor painting demonstration please let me know through my Contact page.

Lake Bonney sunset completed watercolor painting demonstration by Joe Cartwright
Lake Bonney sunset watercolor painting by Joe Cartwright