Qualicum Arbutus

This is a breakdown of my process around painting the Qualicum Arbutus. This tree was one that I came across on a visit to Qualicum Beach prior to moving here and I knew I had to paint it. It is sad that it has since been cut down, it was very close to a roadway, but I am grateful that I had the opportunity to photograph it and show it’s beauty to the world.

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 #1 Sketches

 I start off with some quick thumbnail sketches just to get an idea of how I want to approach the composition and to get a feel for the tonal values and perspective.

#2 Studies in Watercolor (or medium being used)

This is where I will do some smaller studies of various parts of a painiting or drawing that I might feel need a bit more attention.

I also lay out my color palette this way by making color swatches to go by during my painting stage. This helps give me the ability to replicate the colors exactly when I return.  

I make sure to use the same paper I will be using for the actual artwork to perform these studies. With watercolor I have found that paper can react differently for many reasons (it is just the way paper is made and it’s not that it is a bad thing just a characteristic of each brand or type) so it is better to prepare myself from the start by using the same surface I intend to paint on for these preliminary studies.

#3 Laying Down The Sketch & Then Masking If Needed

I work from photographs. This is the point where I  then transfer my  image onto the watercolor paper and then mask any areas that need it to preserve my paper while I work. 


#4 Begin the Foliage in Background

Working on the detailed foliage in the background. Masking the main large branches in these areas really helps during this stage. 

#5 Working Up The Painting Glazing Upper Leaves and Painting The Sky

Working my way up the painting to the upper leaves. I added detail in some of the larger leaves closer to the viewers eye when looking up the trunk of the tree, but then leaves further away at the top of the tree are looser and more transparent to give a sense of depth and an almost stained glass appearance in places. 

#6 First Wash Of The Main Trunk

Laying the first wash of orange on the main trunk of the tree. Really starts to pull the tree to the forefront. 

#7 Glazing The Bark & Getting Some Shape

Glazing washes on the main trunk of the tree and adding in the darker contours on areas of limbs etc. The trunk is taking on a dimensional form now. Very exciting!

#8 Working On Finer Details

This is where I start using small brushes, down to what is called a 00 or zero zero brush and a magnifying glass in some areas. I love seeing the realistic textures come to life. 

#9 Stepping Back To Check The Overall Direction

I will step back from my work multiple times throughout the day just to get a fresh eye on the piece. Some rest really helps in seeing areas with renewed perspective and a rest is always welcome. 

#10 Final Image

This is the final image, which you can also view in my portfolio under Watercolor Landscapes. Thank you for following along. 

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Size of the painting: 14 3/4″ X 28 3/4″

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Qualicum Beach, British Columbia
Canada V9K 1S8

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