Painting Forest Scene Interiors

Armand Cabrera

Here is a way to organize the complex information of an interior forest. This will work no matter what your rendering style happens to be. Whether you are an impressionist painter like me or a realist, the basic building blocks for the picture are the same the only difference is how far you want to carry the finish.

The challenge is to arrange the information to give you the illusion of space where no horizon is apparent. Forest scenes work best when you use clearings to establish a foreground, middle ground or background to help divide space in the scene. It doesn’t matter if you are painting jungle or alpine forests, the lush foliage of summer or the bare branches of winter trees; the abstract qualities of design still apply.

It helps to visualize the anchor points of the composition first. These objects will have the most detail and can be flagged or spotlighted for greater effect. A large tree or a trailhead or stream will help start the viewer in the painting. They will give your eye a place to go in the image allowing you to use areas of less detail as counterpoints.

After the anchor points, I always start with large areas of color keyed to the average for that mass this helps to unify the shape. I block in all of these shapes covering the complete image. Once these are established to my liking I begin to develop and refine the painting.
I start in the back and design the sky holes moving right to left.
I add some more details and branches to fill out the space and really solidify the anchor points of the larger trees. The fallen tree I was using as a lead in I move to the front of the big tree on the right

I now go back to the color of the emerging foliage. I’m always thinking about rhythm and balance of the different shapes. I want to weave the basic colors of the composition through the painting in a pleasing way.

10 thoughts on “Painting Forest Scene Interiors

  1. SYB,

    I have not read Hamm's book but I do read Arthur Wesley Dow's book on composition often.

    Thanks, I looked at your site and I enjoyed the images very much.

  2. Looks like you're ready for spring! Thanks for showing your process in such good detail, really nice painting. I especially like the tangled up foreground plants on the right. What size canvas is it?

  3. A,
    I appreciate seeing your process step by step. Teaching the eye to see is important and not always easy.
    I admire your work and look forward seeing more. Hope you will consider a visit to the Thousand Islands region of NY this summer.
    Carpe diem,

  4. Absolutely wonderful tutorial. Many amateur artists (like myself) tend to want to do too much too quickly, …and lose the entire objective. The step-by-step manner that you demonstrated was very meaningful for me.
    Thank you,
    Richard Schinella

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