HOW TO PAINT A BANYAN TREE
Take initial photos after finding a tree that has lots of light shining through
Study the tree and stay to draw it outdoors with 4 thumbnail sketches
In addition a trial run fast painting will help you get familar with the tree.
Below is a large initial painting using watercolor pencils and adding acrylics.
It is very loose and very fast. The goal is not a finished wonderful painting but instead
a simple rough draft that allows you to adjust your ideas and revisit those areas you realize
might be difficult. I suggest that it helps to just paint everything in the background cool
and everything in the foreground warm so that you can be sure how to approach the final painting
(This initial photo was supplied by Dani, thank you)
Paper copies to trace shapes
I usually get 5 or 6 paper copies of my photo.
Use the paper copies to trace shapes. I suggest one copy to trace large light
shapes, one to trace large dark shapes and then go over top of those using a different color
marker to trace around small light or dark shapes. This exercise will get you familar with
the organic shapes supplied by the shade of the tree and shadows in the tree crevices.
It is important to note that the ground shapes are oblong obliks that go all to one direction.
This direction will make it clear as to where the sun's position was in the sky.
Purchase a canvas that is suitable for the subject. It is a mammoth tree and works well on a big canvas.
It can be painted small but you won't get the opportunity to get to know every inch of the tree.
This is your chance to fall in love with a Banyan so please do so. I am using a 24x30 gallery wrap.
Now the paint.
It is important to provide this amazing tree with the dignity of all it's speckled light. I use lots of white, lemon yellow, pinks and light cadmium yellow to cover my canvas in very bold stokes. I try very hard to show the brush strokes and leave large stokes of full pigment. This means there are strokes of pure cad. yellow
beside pure white , beside pure pink in some spots. It makes for more excitement. It is a painting so be paintery. Do not try to duplicate the photo, that job is for photographers.
I use masking tape applied directly to the canvas to lay out the options of placement for the major subjects.
Then I just STARTED painting them in rough in burnt oranges ( brighter than the tree would appear to the eye so that you get some POP as an underpainting)
(in thirds or fifths)
Now that a look at where you want your horizonal perspective.
I take masking tape and apply it to the canvas to show where I want the darkest part
of my land mass to stop, then the lightest part, then the sky then the underneath of the tree ..etc.
In other words, there is a light/dark change going bottom to top horizonally.
You want to determine that and stay very focused on keeping with that
value so you get a strong composition.
I am still just playing with the placement of the trunks and endless knarly parts. It will mess with your eyes to try to figure out each tiny detail. This is why it is so smart to draw on location a LOT first. The more familar you are with the way a banyan grows the better able you wil be to attack the painting with confidence.
Here I had to stop and really assess the values I was laying in . The foreground trunks needed to be darker than the photo and the background needed to be lighter than the intial wash I laid in ...so I am still adjusting.
To get depth I want to give strong light and dark contrast. I am not there yet, but that is where I am going.
Dark Values and Grey
When you start with vibrant color you will need to get grey in your painting.
Most art teachers will refer to this as local color which is the color that you see
unmodified. It is the most obvious color that abounds on your subject.
In the case of the Banyan, the trunk initially appears just grey,
and more grey with dark grey. If you were to just paint with only
local color for your banyan you would find it very boring.
If you are trying to find your OWN PERSONAL view of a banyan
I suggest seeing a banyan at different times of day and also through
great sunglasses! If you take away the glare of the sun on your Banyan
you will see lots of colors dancing.
If you don't see it, then imagine the dark of the tree having all darkest values of
all the colors and the light parts of the tree having all the colors of the color wheel in their
lightest or brightest value.
Then let yourself paint.
The most boring grey is black and white mixed together.
The best greys are mixed from many colors on your palette then adding some white or black.
Getting MANY greys from your palette would be the most
exciting way to paint a Banyan. It is a tree that has seen a lot of years, let it reflect
all of that with color...regal colors, bright colors, warm colors..etc.
The more excitement you can lend it with color, the more likely it will
Here I have put in the dark shadow under the tree (may be a little too dark but will lighten with some blue
and keep some warm burnt sienna and oranges on the ground as well .
The Greens were added today. I am always intimidated by the leaves.
Here is my advice. Leave a good amount of organic (irregular) shapes of light or "see thru" for the sky to peek through. Use a light glaze of interesting mixes of purples and blues and crimson.
A light wash will allow it to appear as though the leaves fade in to the sky around the edges.
After the wash dries, add the darker greens. I load my brush with a speak of other color once in a while to
just add interest.
Do not be afraid of random colors popping in to your painting.
You will start to notice the full prism of colors in everything you see.
Light plays on all flat solid colors during the day.
A flat green leaf is never just GREEN.
acrylic on mahogany board
A painting of a tree trunk with a small confident palm upstart sneaking in to make a home at it's roots.
I painted this "start" at Manoa Chinese Cemetery high above Honolulu.
This large tree stands at the top of the space they call the Dragon's Pulse.
I had to giggle at the little palm that decided to grow in the root system
of this old split tree. The large tree provides great amounts of shade
and I have seen many artists at their easels fit under the cool umbrella of leaves to paint.
It would be difficult to get a great camera shot of this tree and the massive shade. BUT, the trunk itself is split in two and the light streaming through in the early morning lit the palm leaves to chartreuse. It looks like the entrance to Nirvana.