Sunset through the Trees – Glorious sunset silhouetted by delicate leaves
The Sunset through the Trees painting was another project I had wanted to do for a while. We are fortunate to live on a ridge and see some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Therefore I have many photographs of sunsets taken over the years. I was always particularly struck by seeing the sunset through a silhouette of our Ash trees. It really brought the sunset to life. I loved the delicate swirling leaves, dancing across the warm vibrant orange sky.
The need to create this painting became more urgent, when we realised our lovely tall Ash trees had to be taken down. Photographs are a good reference, but seeing the subject ‘in the flesh’ gives a better perspective. I spent quite some time observing and studying the leaves and branches of the trees and how the sunset lights them.
Sunset through the Trees detailed layout drawing
First I created a detailed pencil drawing of the silhouetted trees and their leaves. This helped me scale the branches and leaves to the sunset. Also I wanted a clearer idea of where I was going with this painting. I wanted to know where the whiteness of the sun was going to be against the branches. I had a clear idea of how I wanted the drooping leaves to dance across the sun. So I needed to work out in advance, which areas I needed to leave unpainted, to represent the white.
Painting watercolour layers
First I started painting broad brushstrokes of yellow watercolour. I used a large brush to spread the paint across the painting. The washes were very wet, so I had to wait quite some time for each layer to dry, before adding the next.
Then I used a smaller brush for the stronger areas of yellow, near the sun’s peripheral. Next I used broad strokes of orange watercolour to over the yellow wash, leaving areas of yellow. Again I kept adding layers of orange to get a stronger colour. Then over the lower areas of yellow I used a smaller brush to create orange streaks. I also added more layers to the streaks.
More watercolour layers
To achieve the rich colours you see in a Sunset I needed to paint more and more layers. To create a smoothness to the layers, the layers had to be very wet washes. I soaked the watercolour paper and stretched it in a Keba frame before painting. This stops any cockling as I apply wet washes to the Sunset through the Tree painting.
Next I added more orange layers to the top and bottom of the painting. Next I created a red/ orange mix and repainted areas with this mix. With each layer becoming more red in hue, especially the lower part of the sunset.
All colours mixed from transparent primary colours, No Black, No white – Pure Watercolour
I used two yellow, one red and one blue watercolour pigments to create all the colours in the Sunset through the Trees painting. The black in the painting is a mix I created from the primary colours. It is difficult to create a cohesive smooth black from mixed colours, so I am pleased I managed to achieve this. I created a large bowl of black mix for the broad brushstrokes and to create lots of black layers of watercolour. I wanted the black to be very strong against the vibrant sunset. My watercolour technique is known as Pure Watercolour.
Lost progress images
I have searched all my files for more progression photos of my painting the Sunset through the Trees. Sadly I couldn’t find them, which is a shame as I would have liked to share the detailed build up of the black layers and the delicate painting of the leaves.
No masking fluid, No white paint and the final layers
I started painting purple layers of watercolour, when the red layers were complete. These layers represented the reflected sunset on the rolling hills.
Finally I began painting the leaves starting on the left, where the leaves met the sunset. I used the black mix I had created with a small brush to create the leaf shapes. This gave the leaves a lace feeling against the Sunset. I painted the black silhouette all over first. Then I build layers of black watercolour to achieve an even tone of black.
I don’t use masking fluid, so I could not paint broad strokes of black paint across the whole painting. I had to control my black wet washes, wet enough to keep a smooth finish, but not so wet as to contaminate the small areas of sunset peeping through the trees.
Finished Sunset through the Trees painting
At last the painting Sunset through the Trees is complete. Beautiful tracery of silhouetted leaves across a vibrant Sunset.