Denver Watercolor Class Teacher Dennis Pendleton

Talking Trees


I have just returned from my Watercolor Workshop in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and this painting was my demonstration on the last day. I would like to thank everyone who took the workshop and made it such a fun experience. The weather was perfect everyday and, on this day, we were painting in an aspen forest at a camp in Strawberry Park. This particular aspen grove gets plenty of sunlight because there aren't any large evergreen trees to block out the sun and, consequently, the aspens are unusually tall. The yellow green leafy plants at the base of the trees is skunk cabbage which is common in the Rocky Mountains. It was in the morning and the cast shadows from the trees were a welcome addition for the painting.

Aspen trees are white but they also include light shades of green, ochre, and gray. I like adding subtle colors to the aspens and, here, I painted the shadow side of the trees with a mixture of yellow ochre and cobalt violet as well as light shades of warm and cool gray, cerulean blue, and cobalt violet. If I want the trees to recede in the painting, I use the cool colors cerulean blue and cobalt violet. I started with the largest aspen tree in the front and used warm mixtures of yellow ochre and cobalt violet along with olive green and, for the very top, cerulean blue. The darker aspen tree on the right was painted with a gray mixed with cerulean blue and a little cadmium red then a darker gray mixed with ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. The markings on the trees are a mixture of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna with very little water. The sky is pure cerulean blue and the distant mountain was painted with cerulean blue, Indian red, raw umber and olive green. The evergreen trees in the background were painted with perylene green and olive green. Lemon yellow and cerulean blue were mixed for the skunk cabbage and the grass is olive green mixed with cerulean blue. The cast shadows are simply darker versions of the colors I used for the trees and grass.

Aspen trees are known for the quaking sound their leaves make in the breeze. This is due to the fact that the little stems on each leaf are actually flat rather than round and this allows them to catch the wind resulting in the quaking sound. If you are ever in an aspen forest listen quietly to the trees talking to each other. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton

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