Thursday, May 14, 2015

Painting Birch Trees on Canvas Tutorial

We love birch trees.  You may have noted this based on some of our prior posts, like showing how we made our birch pendant lamps here: or how we made our birch tree light here:
Or, how we created our little birch covered pots here:

I am super jazzed about our latest birch project where I have painted my birches on canvas.  I have seen several really beautiful birch paintings and I used these as my inspiration when deciding what I wanted to paint.
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 Maybe they will be inspiring to you as well.  At any rate, I am going to show you how I did these paintings and I think it will prove that if you want birch paintings, you can have them.  DIY painting was never so easy as these birch paintings! 

Here's the blank canvas... Come along with me and let's get started!!!

The first thing you will want to do is paint your background (which means, of course, painting the entire canvas, even the sides).  For one of my canvases, I wanted a darker base so I used more black, brown and pthalo green and blended it upwards towards white, yellow and bright yellow green.

For my other canvas, I wanted the background to look lighter as if light was cascading down through a leafy ceiling.  So, for my background I began with a pthalo green and white mixture and then blended it downwards towards that bright yellow green.

Here's the second canvas, with background all completed.  I added a bit of brown and a touch of black near the base,  but not nearly so much as in my first canvas.

Back to the first canvas, which is now dry (one reason I love working with acrylics!) and now I can start blocking in my first birch tree.  I am planning on two trees for this first painting, with one large enough to add in a detailed heart carving on the trunk.

A few more colors (I used brown mixed with white to get that almost peachy color in the bark, as well as straight brown, some black and of course, white), and some intricate detailing, and our first tree is mostly complete.  Some of the paintings I was using for inspiration were not this detailed and still look awesome.  Like this one, here:

The birch bark is not very detailed on this painting.  They've almost only used white and black.  So don't let my detailing intimidate you.  You don't have to get detailed and it will still look fabulous in a more impressionistic style. 

Okay, I have started to lay in the second birch.  I am using big splotches of paint because I love the way it helps add to the realism of the bark when it is slapped onto the canvas.  There are moments in this process when you think, "I haven't the slightest idea what I'm this really going to turn out okay?  But just keep at it, adding in the little details, more contrast here and there.

And it will start really coming together.

Adding in the branches and splotches of yellow for leaves adds a lot too.  Now, all that's left is the heart.  :)  Let's find our photo for inspiration...

This was actually an advertisement my husband designed a few years ago, using real photos.  I love the look of the carvings...we'll see how well I can duplicate the look.

I like it!  Having a photo reference is so helpful.  Basically, I began with black and then added white highlights on the edges.

Here's the finished painting, darker version, with the carved heart.  I love the carved heart, I do.

And here's the finished birch painting with more light filtering through the trees.  Mmmm, this light green puts you in the mind for springtime, doesn't it?

Together, they make me feel like I'm entering a forest of aspen or birch when I walk into my living room.  I love them!  Yay!

Now, wasn't that easy?  So much so that my son decided to make a painting like Mommy, too.

Here's what he accomplished with very little help from me:

I'm telling you, if a four year old can do this, what might you do?  Why don't you give it a try and find out!