Oil Landscape Demonstration - Apple Tree

It's apple picking time in New England and the trees are ripe with fruit. There is a farm near my studio that has a lone apple tree standing near the edge of a field. It would make a great subject for a painting, so let's see what we can do with it!

Since I recently took a trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I'd like to include mountains in the scene. Below is my easel with some reference photos for ideas and an 8"x10" panel with a sketch I've made to start with. You can see a photo of the apple tree in the upper left image:

First, as always, I'll start with painting the sky. I like painting clouds, so this will be a bright day with fluffy clouds rolling by. With a flat brush and using thick strokes, I paint in a blue mixture for the sky and a lighter mixture for the clouds:

Next, the distant mountains are painted using a pale blue for the far hills and a bit greener and darker blue for the nearer mountains. The blue color will ensure they look distant when the painting is finished.

I've decided that this is to be set in the late afternoon, and the sun will be coming from the right, so the mountains are shadowed on the left:

A row of dark evergreens lines the far side of the field. I'll add some deciduous trees that have some autumn color in front of the evergreens later:

Next, the field is painted with a bright green that fades to a more blue green as it goes off into the distance. Just like with the mountains, the more blue color denotes distance in landscape.

I'll add more russet colors to the grass later to give the field an autumn feel. Note that the shadows of the tree and apple basket are to the left. The long shadows create a feeling of late afternoon.

The apples are painted next with a round brush. Painting the red apples before the green leaves ensures that their color will not be muddied by the green paint:

Below is the tree with leaves and trunk painted. I try to keep the left side of the tree darker as that is the shadow side:

Foreground details including the basket of apples below the tree are all that is left. The stone wall is painted with a gray mixed from the same colors that have been used throughout the painting to maintain a consistent look.

You can see the beginning of the far wall which has only the shadows between the stones painted thus far:

Next is the foreground grass which I paint with a flat brush using short strokes for texture. I paint this in a darker green denoting a shadow cast by the stone wall. This will offset the lighter area just beyond the wall making it look brighter by contrast:

And finally, to finish the painting, I add a few details in the grass and a ladder which the apple picker has left leaning against the tree.

Take a seat on the wall and bite into a bright red juicy apple on a beautiful September afternoon!

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