Painting a Pair of Pine Trees with Watercolor

Painting a Pair of Pine Trees with Watercolor

This painting came out of a desire to create something challenging for myself. I've been working on improving my own skills at watercolor painting and I wanted to do something that would push my abilities. So I went with the trees because they are a challenge, being so detailed and because I just love trees! I also decided to go really big, this painting is 18 x 24 inches and I usually work around 8 x 10 or 11 x 14. Since the painting is so big I used 300 lb watercolor paper so that I wouldn't have any buckling and I was very happy with the result, it stayed quite flat. 

Whenever I'm out and about I take pictures of things that are interesting to me in nature and I keep those pictures as a collection on my phone that I can go to whenever I need inspiration for a painting. I found these stunning trees when I was in Columbus for an art event in the German Village area. 

I printed out my reference image to the same scale that I would be painting.

The reference picture of the trees

Before I draw anything on the watercolor paper I do a sketch on plain paper. This is because the watercolor paper is very expensive so I get all my mistakes and erasing out on the plain paper, then I transfer it via light box and pencil over to the nice watercolor paper once I have it all figured out.

Here is a close up of the sketch. Because this piece was so big and I know from experience that it is really hard to keep track of which branch you are working on I created a grid system to help me get the layout done properly. I like doing this because I can be more accurate and feel more comfortable once I get to the painting.

I was very excited to get started with this piece!
Me holding the sketch

Here's the pencil drawn onto the watercolor paper. As you can see it's drawn very light and I only drew the branches, not the greenery because I didn't want the pencil to show through and I knew I was going to be looser with the greenery than I was with the branches.

I was very purposeful about not overworking but just capturing the essence of these trees as best I could. I wanted it to be an accurate representation, but also fun. I played around with the saturation of the colors, making them a little brighter and being playful with the strokes of paint for the greenery of the branches.

Here's what my palette looked like near the beginning of the painting.

My watercolor palette

I mix all my colors before I start the painting so that I keep to the intended color palette. This practice has helped me to stay on course with my paintings and to keep them from getting muddy by adding too many colors.

Here is the link for the palette that I use (and love!)

And here are the main watercolor paints that I used for the tree:

New Gamboge

Manganese Blue

Cascade Green

Paynes Grey

French Ultramarine

Buff Titanium:

Here's a shot of the painting in my studio after the first layer of watercolor.

My studio mid painting

After the first layer of watercolor. This is that awkward stage of the painting, it's not very colorful, not very detailed but it's the necessary first stage, the foundation to build upon for the rest of the painting.

Another mid process, painting layer after layer of lovely greens, it's starting to look more like a tree!

Process of me painting with the Princeton brush

The brush that I'm using in the picture above is my favorite. It is a Princeton Neptune Series size 6 quill. I love it because it is very versatile. It holds a lot of water but it also comes to a very sharp point so I can use it for detail work and not have to get new paint every couple seconds.

Here is the link for the paintbrush

close up if the tree painting

I've painted a few pine trees but nothing ever this detailed. I really upped the level of detail in this painting from the other ones that I've done and it was really a big challenge. I put in lots of hours and the hard work really paid off. That's something that I tell people when they say "oh wow you're so talented, I could never do that" anyone can paint, anyone can put in the time. I've chosen to do this for a living and so I put in a lot of time and energy. If you love to paint, you can definitely get better at it with time and study.

For this piece and all of my artwork in general I create to exemplify the beauty of nature and serve as a reminder of how awesome it is to spend time in nature. I am a huge proponent for hiking and just getting out on trails, getting out into nature. I think that it is very important to take time for revitalizing and connecting with the outside world and I make my artwork to be an inspiration to do that.

Here's the finished painting!

Finished painting on the table

If you are interested in collecting the original you can find that here.

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Enjoyed seeing your process. Just beautiful!


Absolutely loved your tutorial. I’m going to attempt to do something similar. Thank you so much!


Absolutely loved your tutorial. I’m going to attempt to do something similar. Thank you so much!


Thank you for sharing your process. I am a relatively new watercolor artist and am about to start working on a painting of pine trees- this was especially helpful to see how you layered your washed to build the finished painting. It’s beautiful!


Kim, Your painting of the evergreens is beautiful! Thank you for sharing some of your process of developing your own art. I too love too hike Nd get out in nature, it’s a must for my sanity! I’ve been trying to learn watercolor painting but just can’t seem to get to the next level of creating my own pictures from my photographs. It seems over whelming. Thanks for your inspiration! Beth


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