Explore Gouache: Paint a Tree with Texture and Movement | Mari Lee McCloskey | Skillshare

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Explore Gouache: Paint a Tree with Texture and Movement

teacher avatar Mari Lee McCloskey, Artist and Art Teacher

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (58m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Your Class Project

    • 3. Your Inspiration

    • 4. Your Supplies

    • 5. Color Mixing

    • 6. Your Color Palette

    • 7. Play with Paint

    • 8. Painting Swatches

    • 9. Paint Your Tree

    • 10. Thanks

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About This Class

In this beginner/intermediate class you will learn how to paint with gouache to create a tree painting with lots of color, texture, movement and mark-making.

We will discover our inspiration through:

  • A virtual walk through the Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia
  • A look at the dynamic tree paintings of Vincent Van Gogh

I will teach you how to:

  • Mix a wide variety of colors with a limited palette
  • Record the colors you create in a sketchbook
  • Play with washes of gouache and wet on wet techniques similar to watercolor
  • Layer textures and mark making to create a library of swatches you can use in future paintings
  • Draw and paint a dynamic tree based on original reference photos from our virtual trip
  • Paint your tree using the skills gained from previous lessons¬†

Join me for a relaxing and enjoyable painting experience!  I'm excited to see your paintings!

Meet Your Teacher

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Mari Lee McCloskey

Artist and Art Teacher


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1. Introduction: Hi everyone. My name is Mary Lee and I'm an artist, and I'm also an art teacher from Pennsylvania. In this class, I'll show you my method for creating a tree painting full of mark making and movement. This class is designed as a relaxing and fun painting experience for the beginner, as well as the more experienced artists. Will begin by visiting the beautiful Mars Arboretum here in Philadelphia. Next, we'll find inspiration from the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. A walk you through the supplies you'll need to create a successful painting. I'll show you my tips and tricks for creating a full range of colors with a limited palette. Next, we'll have fun experimenting with market-making, textures and even patterns. As I teach you how to create a colon full library of painted swatches. And finally, for your class project, you'll create a beautiful painted Tray. I'm very excited to begin to explore squash and have a relaxing painting experience with you. So let's get started. Okay. 2. Your Class Project: Your project for today's class has three parts. First, choose a limited palette of colors. A red, a blue, and yellow, and most importantly, White. And experiment by mixing as many variations as you like. Second, this part's so much fun. Use the colors you've mixed and explore textures, mark making, and patterns by creating a library of swatches. Don't worry about the outcome. Just think about movement and be playful. And third, use the previous two warm up exercises to paint a unique wash tray using lots of texture, color, mark making, and movement. I'll work along with you step-by-step. And I can't wait to see each step of your art in the class projects section below. 3. Your Inspiration: The photograph of this tree you see here is the inspiration for the painting I'm going to do for this class. And I took this photograph at the Morris Arboretum. The Morris Arboretum is the official Arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and it's located in chestnut Hill in Philadelphia. Today, the Arboretum contains more than 13 thousand plants from North America, Asia, and Europe. It's one of my favorite places to walk, sketch, and to take reference photos. I'm not going to reference the kinds of trees that I'm showing you here. I just want you to appreciate how beautiful they are and hopefully be inspired to create your own painting, either from a tree that you see every day while you're walking or from one of the reference photos that I'm providing. In the resource section of this class, you'll find a PDF containing these four photographs of trees. They were taken by May, and you're free to use them for your reference. I've also included a simple line drawing for each tray. This class is really about painting. It's not about drawing. So it's fine if you just want to transfer the drawings that I've provided. And there's directions on how to do that as well. In the resource section. There's another thing about trees that make them a beautiful source of inspiration for artists. And that is that trees are alive and they go through seasons and they have to stand up to the elements. There's a spirituality that is expressed in the life of a tray. Vincent van Gogh's art has a great spiritual energy to it. And he achieved this through dynamic use of brushstrokes and market-making to create a lot of energy, movement and feeling of an underlying spirit to nature. Exaggerate the essential and leave the obvious vague. So what's obvious here in this painting is that van Gogh was painting trees. But the essential, I believe, that he was trying to express is the lightness of the trees, the way the light reflects off the leaves, the way the breeze blows through the tree. And it kind of has a sparkling. Look, and if you look up close at the trees, you'll see that Van Gogh accomplish this through varying values with subtle changes in colors. So the darker values next to the lighter values gives the tree a kind of a sparkling look. And we can recreate that look in our own way by using a small paint brush and dabbing different values and different colors next to each other to create an impression of leaves. Instead of painting individual leaves. Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. Ralph Emerson Waldo. When Van Gogh painted, he saw the true nature of what he was painting. He saw below the surface. In the fall, trees begin to show their true colors, the colors that come from within. And I just find that as fascinating that all of the pigments that we say and the gorgeous fall trees, those pigments, those colors are always there deep within the tree. They just show their loveliness storing the fall. Here I'll point out to you how Van Gogh used mark making in this painting. On your left you see a bush. The Bush is made up of short, choppy lines, and that gives the Bush a prickly feeling around the edge. The tree on the right hand side, has wavy dark lines that direct your eye towards the bottom of the painting. This tree has a heavy feel to it because of van Gogh's use of the wavy dark lines. In contrast to those two parts of the painting. Look at the very center, at the tree in the center of the sky. The values are lighter. The brush strokes are softer and they're curved. They create a downward curve which creates a softer effect. Those are examples of how Vinson used market-making in this painting. If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere. Let's take a look at how Van Gogh painted these tree trunks. He used a dark contour line to draw the trees. A contour line is the outline of an object. The line is undulating and it makes the tree look old and bumpy. The interior of the tree is painted with unusual colors. And the line work that expresses the bark is painted in a lot of different directions. There's a lot of visual interest here in the painting of these tree trunks. Through variety. There's a variety of color. There's a variety of line work, and there's a variety of mark making events in painted the bark in a way that makes you want to look at it for a long time. When we paint our trees, we can use variety to create a lot of visual interest. The beginning is perhaps more difficult than anything else. But key part, it will all turn out alright. When you're looking at mangos work, I would like for you to just take notice of the amount of energy that he created through his use of lines. Whether they be small, brushstrokes, heavy thick lines, curved lines that create great movement in the sky. And take from him, borrow from him some of his ideas. Like I said, we're not Van Gogh's, but his art is readily available for us to explore and admire. So let's learn from him and it will add more stuff to our own art. 4. Your Supplies: The supplies you'll need for this class are a tube of red, blue, and yellow designers squash. You'll also need a tube of white designers squash. I use Winsor Newton because it's thicker and it seems to last longer. And I tend to go through a lot of white pain. Additional colors are optional. I'll be using yellow ochre and a violet. You'll need two containers of water. And for your brushes, you'll need one large brush. This is a number 12 round and it holds a lot of water. So it's good for creating washes. This is a number six round brush. You can tell it's my favorite brush because it's all beat up. The paints all chipped off. I'm not really loyal to any particular brand. I usually buy decent brushes that are on sale and then you'll need a detail brush. This is a number one round brush. These toothbrushes or specialty brushes. And I'll go over these in another lesson. These brushes are optional. You'll also need a pencil and paper towel. You'll need some kind of a palette. This is a butcher's tray. It's metal and it's coated with animal, so it's easy to mix the paint on and the paint doesn't flake off when it dries. This is a paper palette. I like to use these and you can even wipe them off when you're finished. And this is a ceramic palette with deeper wells so that I can mix larger amounts of pain. I have a lot of different palates and I store them in a crate with a lid. Regular designers squash can be re wet and reactivated. So if I have a palette that I am enjoying using that I can put it aside and use it at another time. So you'll see me using both of these pallets during the class. You'll need a few pieces of scrap watercolor paper to test your colors out on. This is the watercolor paper that I'll be using to paint that tree. It's a good-quality cold press watercolor paper. And this paper is a good every day painting paper. It's Canson. What are color cold press, nine by 1240 pound. Okay. 5. Color Mixing: Well, this lesson is all about color mixing. And for my three base colors, I chose rose, violet, and Prussian blue. And I also chose permanent yellow. So when it comes to white, I prefer to use Winsor Newton brand. Permanent way. I use Winsor Newton because it's thicker and it lasts longer than the Turner designer guage weight. And I go through, anybody that paints with Guassian tends to go through more white. I also chose to other colors for my palette, I chose brilliant violet and yellow ochre. You don't need to choose anything other than a red, blue, yellow, and white. Please take note that I'm using designers squash for this lesson and not acrylic wash. Designers squash can be reactivated just like whatever color you can reweight it on your palate once it dries, but acrylic wash dries and it stays dried so you won't be able to rewetting once it dries. I have all my colors laid out on my palette. This palette that I'm using is a butcher's tray. Butcher's tray pallets are made of enamel. So when wash dries, it won't chip or flake off of the palette. And it stays nicer than if you were to use a plastic palette has because the paint will chip off, chip off of a plastic palette. I also like ceramic palettes, and these suggestions will be listed in the resource section of the class. What I recommend when you're mixing together callers is to start with one color. Here I started with yellow, and I'm mixing a bit of all of the other colors into the yellow in different amounts. So I've already mixed a darker orange, a lighter orange. Now marking on the greens blow is a strong colors, so I need to add extra yellow to make a lighter color green here. Now, now I'm going to speed up the videos so that you can, you can see the demonstration a little bit faster. Okay. 6. Your Color Palette: I like to use these small watercolor mole skins, sketch books to collect color palettes in. I like to use a limited number of colors and make as many colors as I can with that limited number. And then I like to add some other media like gel pens and inks. We already have all of our colors mix stem because we're using designers squash, all of the colors can be rewarded just like water colors. So I'm just going to record the colors that I mixed. I'll start with the blue And I'll go from there. I always try to remember to record the colors straight from the tube first and then add my mixes. I'm gonna just paying a few of these circles. Sometimes I do squares or rectangles, it doesn't really matter. It's whatever mood I'm in. So I'm going to just do a couple of these circles. And then I will speed up the video so that the demonstration is a little quicker for you to watch. I didn't record this, but I also mixed Tense directly from the two paints, as you can see at the top of the butcher's stri, and at the bottom, I mixed a dark, dark with the rows, the Prussian Blue and a little bit of yellow. I rarely use black wash right out of the tube. I rarely use black wash at all. If I'm going to use black, it's gotta come from India ink or from a micron pen. So here we go. I'll speed this up a bit. Okay. Here I'm playing around with mixing different kinds of greys. For the final project, I want, I want to pay in a moody sky. So some of these graze will come in handy when I'm trying to accomplish that kind of mood. When you look at Gray's sitting next to each other, It's interesting to notice how different they can be. But if you were to isolated gray, it might just look gray. So that's why I like to play around in my sketchbook with different mixtures. So at the bottom of this page I'm going to use an angle brush. And I'm going to play around with painting. A little bush and a cloud and something that looks like a texture you would see in a wheat field. I really like the effect that this angle brush gives. This brush in particular is brand new. So it still has a nice sharp chisel point. And I can get very straight and sharp crisp lines with it. And it's also nice for making strokes that can describe a sort of a volume. So this is meant to be a pulpy fall cloud. I don't know about you, but I could think everybody sees colored differently. But I tend to see a lot of purples and grave islets in the sky in the fall. And I'm just painting this little yellow gold swatch next to it because colors that are opposite compliment each other. Yellow and violet are opposite. And I guess you could say they really bring out the best in each other. And again, I'm using this angle brush just to get some interesting line work and texture. This is fun, it's really relaxed saying, I know that it's sped up and, uh, but if when if you take the time and do the swatches and don't think about it too much, just play. It can be very childlike and playful. I really enjoy this kind of work, and it does end up showing up in my paintings. 7. Play with Paint: Okay, so this is the setup that I like to use when I'm painting. I'm left-handed. So I'd like to have the water above the palette. And I like to have everything on the left-hand side. I like to have a little bit of extra paper towel in case I need to wipe off my brush. And I'm going to show you a little bit of how these brushes are used when I when I'm making marks. So like I said, this number 12, Katlyn brush is big enough to hold a lot of water, so I'm going to get this nice and wet. And I'm going to just pick a color. And I'm gonna start mixing the water in. Now, I'm reactivating this pain because it's designer squash. I can do that. I'm going to go get a little bit more water. And I'm going to just keep mixing it. Ok. So, just so you can say this is nice and thick here, meaning it can be even thicker. But the way I like to start, I'd like to use a lot of water. So that's why I use this paper palette in addition to this ceramic palate so that I can make a light wash. Okay. I can even just rewrite, Re wet the edge of this and it just feels good to do this. I like watery wash pain. Okay. Okay. So for our brush like this, you can make some marks with it. Let's try some green. I'm adding what are I don't know if you can see this. I'm adding water to the green. And then what I can do is I can just make marks like this. I could just go like this and just do wispy wines. And then I can also just make a wash like that. So this is my number one round. Well mix up some blue here. And then I can just kind of drag lines on top of this and let the colors bleed into each other. May even make a broken line. You can make a line that kind of represents water. You can do dots. You can also use it to make just a smaller area of wash. That's cool. This is very stress relieving and love to do this. Okay, so there's really no right or wrong here. Just play and have fun. Sometimes I use salt or bleach and just drop it into the pain to see what kind of an effect I can get that sum. That's a subject for another class. Okay, so now this brush is the rake brush. And well that beautiful marks. And then you can criss cross it and make, and I don't know, almost like a plaid. You can make more organic marks with this too. You can start out thicker and then just drag it. You can start out more watery and then just drag it, right? You could do that. Okay. So this brush here is a Princeton, again is three-eighths seven engine and it's called an angle shader. And it's really new, so it still has a nice snap to it. And let's try a different color. Let's try some of this pink here. Ok, again, I'm reactivating this pink. And I add a weight to this pink so it's a bit more opaque and it's a little past Stele. Okay, so this is what I like about this brush. Love doing this. Ok, so the point of all this is to create movement through the repetition of marks. And also do something like this. And then this, this turns a little bit. This turns into a dry brush. Luck, meaning there's not a lot of paint on your brush. And the white of the paper is showing through. So we can go on top of this and see what happens. Do paint over this. If your gentle when you paint and layer, then you won't disturb the layer underneath. But if I were to really scrub, then I would reactivate the layer underneath and it would start to mix with the layer on painting over it. So there's a lot of possibilities for this brush. 8. Painting Swatches: So now that we have all of our colors mix, we can play around with creating textured swatches. Bulldog clips can come in handy for keeping your watercolour paper flat. If you're not going to use tape. I'm using a size eight round watercolour brush because it holds a lot of water. So what I'm doing here is I'm using a wet on wet technique. I would her Dale my blue and painted a base coat with the blue or base color with the blue. And then I dropped in some purple. Blue and purple are analogous colors, meaning they're close to each other on the color wheel. So if I allow them to mix together, it'll create a harmonious lock. I recommend that if you're going to use more than one color for your swatch, use colors that are close to each other on the color wheel. Unless you want to make, unless you want to experiment with opposites and see what happens. Like if you were to lay down some yellow and then drop in purple, it would create a greenish brown color and you might not find that pleasing to your eye, but then again, you might, I don't know. So it's worth a shot. This is all about experimentation. So I say go for it. Don't overwork the guage, just let it do its thing. I heard another teacher say something like painting with watercolor or swap or wash is a spectator sport. And I thought what a great analogy. You paint with it and you may have an attention and intention for how you want it to look. But it really does take on a life of its own. So the more you learn to relax and just kind of go with it, the more enjoyable the process will be and the more exciting the results will pay for you to watch. You can also pay your paper first with water and then drop in some color. That's fine too. I'm going to speed up this video and I'll see you on the other side where we start to talk about adding marks with the thicker paint. So here I started to experiment with different marks that I can make using different brushes. Think about the direction of your line and think about the contrasts between the pain that you're using for your marks as opposed to the washes that you already have on your paper. So the more dramatic you want your swatch to be than the higher the contrast should be. Oh, I'm doing these, I'm thinking about what I'll be painting for the final project. I know I'll be painting a sky. I want the sky to have a little bit of drama and Moon, Venus to it. And I, I know that I'm painting a tree with foiling edge and bark. So I want the tree to look like, you know, it has a nice breeze blowing through it and it has a nice movement. So after you have a collection of these swatches, you may find that the textures show up in your paintings without even referring back to them. Because when you do exercises like this, you add to your own personal visual library there in your mind, there in the back of your mind. So I do this kind of exercise often. And I'll show you a few of the other sheets of Swatches that I've done, some of them are less spontaneous, they're more of a pattern. So I'll show you those as well. Okay. Yes. 9. Paint Your Tree: The first step in creating this painting is to take some tape and to create a border on your watercolour paper. I'm using Washi tape. You can also use drafting tape or masking tape. If you do, you might want to put the tape on a piece of fabric that has a bit of lint first to make the adhesion not quite as strong, so it comes off easier. Your next step is to lightly draw a contour line drawing of your tree with a pencil. Don't press our jaw lights so that you can either erase unwanted marks or so that it doesn't show up underneath of your painting. You can find the reference photos, the contour line drawings, and directions on how to transfer those drawings to your watercolour paper in the resource section of this class. In this ceramic palette that you see here, I mixed larger amounts, the paint colors that we worked with, and the color mixing portion of this class. Right now I'm mixing together some orange and pink to make salmon color so that I can draw over my contour. Pencil line drawing. I'm also using a light value. I added a little bit of white to my salmon pink color so that it's not too noticeable when I add other layers of pain. I'm keeping my line drawing loose and gestural. It really just serves the purpose of place men. And it helps me to get a feel for what it is that I'm drawing. Here are mixing together some blue and some pink and little bit of yellow. And some way to make a light brown color. Just play around with your primaries and some extra white. And you should be able to get a nice light brown. Again, I'm using a light value because it's just my base layer. And I want to be able to adjust things as I work on my painting. One of the things that really attracted me to this particular photograph was the way the three tree trunks lock like one tray. There's actually three trees that are arranged, one with the front end to behind, and it created an interesting composition. Now I'm mixing together a yellow, green and I'm tensing it with some white so that I can draw the ground line where the sky would meet the ground. I'm not going to draw the surrounding trees. I'm also going to draw some leading lines of the base of the composition so that it will lead the viewer's eye as if it were a pathway into the painting. Here I'm mixing together a bluish gray tone for the sky. The sky looks like it might rain in this picture. I'm not completely following my reference. I'm just using it as an inspiration. The marks that I'm painting are curved, so it looks like puffy clouds. As I work on the foreground with greens and yellows. I'll fast-forward the video and I'll meet you on the other side with more commentary. Okay. As she can see, while the video was sped up, I painted at kind of an S curve in the foreground of the painting to lead the viewer's eye back towards the tray. And now what I'm doing is I'm painting various tones of oranges and salmon pinks, some light yellow greens. And I have some of the sky peeking through the leaves because that makes the tree painting look more natural. Here I'm painting a very light brownish grey wash on the tree trunks. And when that Dries, I'm going to add some bark texture. If you remember when we worked on our swatches, I talked to you about contrast. Here. What I'm doing is I'm using a bright hot pink and I'm creating marks that look like dots and dashes that will give the impression of leaves. And hopefully it will give kind of a shimmering effect. The way we observed in Van, Van Gogh's paintings. And I'm working back and forth between the pinks and the greens. Another thing that really struck me about this photograph is the tree actually looked like it was a pink color. It was very pretty. And while I'm painting, I'm trying to remember what it was like to be in the scene at the Morris Arboretum when I took the photograph. I'm back to working on the sky now. And I want to add some blues that lean more towards the green tone for variation. So sometimes what I like to do is I like to check values by taking little pieces of paper and painting the Guassian on the paper and then holding it up to the painting to see how it's going to look. So that's what I'm doing right here. I'm going to light in the blue and I'm going to decide which value works better. Here I'm going to switch to the angle brush so that I can add some variety to the marks that I'm making in the sky. I'm also using it to define the edge better where the sky meets the ground. Here what I'm doing is I'm adding a pale yellow and I am using the tip of the angle brush to create lines in the sky as if it were raining to make it look like there's a sun shower. I'm also adding some dashes of lavender paying to complement the yellow pain in the sky. This creates a lot of visual interest and movement. Now and I'm going to do is mix a very dark color using blue and red with a tiny bit of yellow just to D saturate it and make it more neutral. And I'm gonna add some tree bark. I decided that I'm going to make the bark a little bit more orderly than the looseness of the leaves. So I'm kind of making a pattern. It's all loose pattern. In the, on the tree trunk in the foreground, I'm going to use darker values to bring that forward visually. And then the tree to tree trunks behind it. I'm going to use lighter values and lighter contrast so that they look like they're behind the main tree trunk. I'm going to add a few dots and dashes of the dark color in the tree just to unify my painting. Here, what I'm doing is I'm adding some orange individual leaves that are lying around on the ground. And the leaves in the foreground are bigger than the leaves that I'm painting in the background. And the reason I'm doing that is so that it kind of gives a sense of depth. Things that are closer to us, larger visually. I'm using the rake brush and some green paint to make some marks that would look like grass. I'm going to go into the sky with some white paint without any water added so that I can bring emphasis to the clouds. The paints thicker, it is covering what's underneath of it. And it's creating more of a sense of definition in a very, in what I've painted to be a very active sky. At this point, I can just have fun and add lots of dots and dashes the marks and just create visual interests anywhere I want. And that's pretty much it. That's my painting finished. It's loose. I could see myself basing finished full size painting on this and I can't wait to see what you painted. 10. Thanks: Thanks so much for taking this class with me. I look forward to seeing your work in the class projects section. You can take a photo of your color palette and your swatches, and especially your final tree painting and posts them. And I'll leave feedback if you have any questions about this class or if you have suggestions for future classes for me to create, I would love to hear from you. Thanks so much again and bye for now.