To create a unique art style, it's a good idea to learn from multiple artists, especially when it comes to painting trees and plants. Each artist has their own preferences and approaches.

You can learn new techniques from TJ Marston, whose art style is influenced by her background as a landscape architect. To get started, all you need are watercolours, a round or dagger brush, and some hot press paper. Let's begin!


Step 1: Draw the Structures

TJ has a unique approach to drawing trees - rather than focusing on their actual shape, she draws the minimal structural hint and the location of shadows.

Although her drawing of the deciduous tree on the right may initially resemble a mushroom, it will eventually take shape as a tree. The spots on the tree represent branch clusters and serve as a helpful guide for adding highlights while painting.


Step 2: Starting the Palm Tree

TJ has her own method of pre-mixing colours, but there are various approaches you can take to achieve similar effects. You can mix as you go, use pan colours that mix on the page, or follow TJ's lead and pre-mix your colours.

For highlights, a hint of green added to cool yellow can be effective.

Tip: When creating the leaves, the goal is to suggest the shape rather than draw it in detail. Simply make small marks along the branch structures to indicate the hints of leaves.


Step 3: Shadows

To add dimension to the painting, Prussian blue was added to create shadows, and the wet yellow allowed the colours to mix on the page.


Step 4: The Tree Trunk

To paint the tree trunk, mix brown and ultramarine together or layer them separately, depending on your preference. In this case, layering was chosen for the painting.


Step 5: Other Palm Trees

To paint the other two trees, repeat the process and don't worry about making them too similar.

The tree in the background should be less distinct to convey atmospheric perspective.

Tip: For added texture, reddish brown can be used on some of the leaves.


Step 6: Shadows on the Ground

To add cast shadows on the ground, use a mix of yellowish-green and ultramarine.

It's important to maintain a loose style and avoid overworking the shadows to avoid detracting from the overall texture and composition of the painting. Imperfections can actually enhance the overall aesthetic of the piece.


Step 7: Deciduous Leaves

Next, it's time to paint the deciduous tree. You can use the same techniques and colours used for the palm tree. For a late summer effect, a slightly browner green was used in this case.

Tip: To ensure optimal value contrast and indicate three-dimensional form, it may be necessary to periodically lift unwanted paint using a clean, damp brush.


Step 8: Blue Shadows

To create realistic shadows on the tree, a blend of ultramarine and reddish-brown works well. Apply the mixture in splotches to form leaf shapes and watch as the tree takes on a more lifelike appearance.


Step 9: Cast Shadows

To begin creating a cast shadow in this style, it's recommended to start with yellow, as the grass is green and blue to be added next.


Finishing Touches

In the final steps of the process, you can enhance the artwork by inking and paint splattering.

For inking, use a black pen to create squiggles to depict the shape of the foliage and grass around the trees. This step will make the trees look more natural and hide the pencil lines used earlier. Inking is done last so that you can follow the shape of the trees.

Next, splatter some blue paint around the picture to add atmosphere and interest. This is optional, but it can make a big difference in the final result.


Let's Practice! 

We're just scratching the surface! Want to keep on learning? Check out the full 90 minute class by TJ Marston or learn from other great Artists:


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Author: Elsa Wahlstrom


  • Kathryn said:

    What a fun learning experience! I loved this class and how easily you express yourself and your art method. You were very concise and clear about how to not overthink the strokes and inking. Thank you!

    April 05, 2023

  • wendi said:

    Havent done any watercolours before but going to try this

    February 02, 2023

  • Dr.Amrita Basu said:

    I like inking last too.That way I don’t have to colour within the line

    January 16, 2023

  • Ava said:

    Thanks the picture turned out great. It’s amazing to me how watercolors make up such a beautiful picture. I need to be looser with my colors.

    October 17, 2022

  • Geri said:

    Very interesting and helpful
    I love your clear and concise description!
    Etchr Studio replied:
    We’re glad this has been helpful, Geri!

    July 01, 2022

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