Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tutorial on How to Paint a Tree Mural to Create a Cozy Corner

 My Tutorial on How to Paint a Simple Tree Mural for Cozy Corners

Great for Classrooms, Bedrooms, Hallways, Bathrooms, Yoga Space- Any Empty Area that Needs New Life!

Today's blog is an extension to my blog tips on painting murals, which offers general tips that you may also find helpful.   This post is meant to focus on a very simple wall painting which is one of my favorite go-to murals when I don't have much time.  You can pull this off even if you aren't much of a painter.  Tree paintings are timeless, so you can't go wrong.  Especially, if you're working with a simple, iconic or decorative version of a tree.  No need to get detailed here.  I try to keep things loose, free flowing, and decorative.  That said, if and when mistakes are made, this is a very forgiving project that allows for flexibility.

Supplies for Painting a Tree Mural to Create a Cozy Corner:

  • Angle interior brushes in various sizes
  • Value Pack Artist Brushes for small detail areas such as the tips of the branches
  • Interior Paint- Go to your local hardware store and choose a paint color for the trunk of your tree and a color for the leaves.  If you are going as large as I did, a pint of each color should be plenty.  You will probably have left over paint that might come in handy for touch ups, but if you are on a budget you could get a sample size for the leaf area.  I suggest semigloss paints, since they are less likely to chip than a glossy paint.  I chose a warm green semigloss paint called lime green and a deep warm brown like this here, dark brown.  You may want to consider getting a premium paint with primer in it if you are concerned that the paint won't take well to your walls. 
  • Two containers of water
  • Several rags 
  • Gloves for protection
  • Plastic sheets, bags or old sheets to protect floor and furniture surfaces surrounding your designated area
  • Optional: Interior Primer Paint, if your interior walls are in serious need of primer

Tutorial on How to Paint a Simple Tree Mural for a Cozy Corner:

1.  Find an Empty Wall that Needs Life.  So you've chosen a room.  Take a moment and step out of the room, then walk back in and take a quick glance around.  Is there a corner that feels cold or boring?  That could be the perfect corner that is beckoning for some life! Protect the floor and furniture around you with plastic, an old sheet, or whatever you have to work with.  Make sure your wall surface is smooth, clean, and ready for paint to be applied.  If you are concerned that you need a primer, don't bother with that step just yet until you've started drawing.

2. Start Drawing! 

Sketch out some ideas on paper first, but don't spend all day.  If you want to mimic my style, keep your trees free flowing with loose strokes, curvy branches, and swirly twigs.  I basically draw my trees with long, narrow, and wavy triangles.  If you feel that you are no good at drawing, either ask for some help from a friend, or keep this pointer in mind:  The base of the tree is going to be thicker than any part of your tree. When you start drawing, picture an isosceles triangle, with the narrow side at the base of the trunk (where your wall meets the floor/floorboard) and the long sides of the triangle standing tall, reaching to a point where branches will sprout from.  Begin branching out by drawing smaller isosceles triangles, with the short side of your triangles starting from the top sides of the trunk.  Allow these triangle to be loose and curvy by allowing the ends of the branches to curl up, much like the shape of a simple Santa hat drawing.  Don't get too caught up in this sketch if you are pinched for time.  I didn't even bother with a sketch and dove right in.  I make mistakes all of the time, but like I said, this project is very forgiving.

Loosely begin to draw your rough image on the wall that you intend to paint your mural.    Keep it loose and don't be afraid of the mistakes, because sometimes you can "branch off" from your mistakes.  And if you are beginning to panic because you did something that doesn't look right, just hang in there, because once we get into the painting part, you will find that you can can easily cover up your flaws. If you are drawing a tree in a corner of a room, just fold your tree drawing in half to represent two walls.  I enjoy using colored pencils to draw, but you could use markers or sharpies, if you prefer.  I would suggest using colors in blue and green on the branches and brown on the trunk (which I'll explain why later).  The drawing is not permanent, so please don't get caught up in perfectionism.  Try not to erase or wash away when you think you messed up and just keep adding to the branch where you think one needs to be added.  Colored pencils can easily be blended into your paints, and mistakes can often end up adding an artistic touch.  Don't be afraid to press hard and make some definition with your pencil.  This will be very helpful when conquering the steps to come.

4. Determine If Your Tree Needs Primed.  You don't want your mural peeling off later on down the road, because you painted the mural on a high gloss surface.  I tend to change things around quite frequently, so I don't bother with these types of things as perhaps one should.  I went ahead and painted my tree on a semi-mat surface with regular semi-gloss paint and it still stands tall.  If your tree is something you want to keep long term, consider if priming would help.  What you will need to do is fill in your tree with a solid layer of primer, and then literally pretend like you are adding big clouds to the branches (which will represent the leave area).  Some of the branches will get lost in the primer, but you can redefine them with pencils after the primer dries.

Concerned about the condition of your surface and not quite sure how to prep it?  Check out these fabulous 13 Painting tips from Popular Mechanics.

3. Prepare Your Smokey Leaves
I begin with the leaves first, to create a translucent wash over the sketched out branches. I prefer the smokey look, so I don't worry about painting individual leaves.  The technique I am about to explain is much like the faux cloud technique that many painters use to create depth and texture on walls.  However, I keep it real simple by skipping the sponging step.  I just dive in with an old wet rag.  Wear some gloves if you are trying to stay clean and then dip a rag into a container of water, ring it out, and put it aside.

Now, dip another rag into the water, ring it out thoroughly, and dunk it into your thoroughly mixed paint of choice for the leaves.  Mash it around in your hands to saturate the color consistently throughout your rag and ring it out enough so that the paint isn't dripping from the rag.

Bunch up the paint-covered rag and head over to the wall to start swirling around and over the ends of your branches.  Have the clean damp rag handy for wiping away mistakes.  Now press the paint-covered rag to the wall and begin making circular motions as if you are cleaning a window.  Circle further out past the branches to create a fuller look.  Do your best to be quick by continually moving along to different areas, considering the paint may dry quickly when being applied so thin.  If you spend too much time in one area, you will find that the paint begins to get spotty or rub away, causing muddiness.  Don't worry about the areas looking even and move on.  The painting will all come together much better when you step back.  Periodically as you run low on paint, dip it back in the water and apply new paint as before.

 Have an extra rag handy if you want to start clean.  Imagine that you are creating a big fluffy cloud hovering the tree and do not be afraid to paint over the branches.  

You might notice that your drawing of the tree is beginning to get smeared, but it shouldn't matter if you drew with colors that compliment the paint color.  This is where mistakes can be forgiving as these smudges can add subtle softness and texture.  Don't worry too much about rough edges and periodically stand back far away from the painting to view the image as a whole so that you better see where you may be lacking some cloudy swirls.  You can use the clean wet rag to smooth out any rough edges, and don't forget to rinse it in the clean water once in a while.  This process is not meant to be symmetrical, but random and free flowing.  If there are areas that you've toyed too much in, leave them alone and allow those areas to dry completely before trying to fix them up by adding more paint.

4. Start Filling in the Tree with an Angle Brush
Once you've given the cloudy leaf area a chance to dry, before diving in to the next step, don't forget to touch up any branches with a colored pencil, if needed.  Prepare your paint for the bark, grab your angle brush and begin at the base.  Fill in the trunk area and begin to move up through the branches.  The angle brush should come in handy since you can paint strokes in various sizes.  Press into the wall with your paint dipped brush and drag it along the wall to get thick strokes.  As you branch off into thinner areas, let off a little on the pressure and tilt your brush at your desired angle in order to narrow the stroke.  Have your artist brushes handy and choose smaller brushes to fill in the tips of the branches.

Almost done!  You may need to add another coat to the body of your tree after it dries, that is, if it looks spotty after it dries.  I did my best to put the paint on thick the first time, and just had a few spots to touch up when I came back to it the next day.

And there you have it.  A cozy tree mural.  As for the birds and owl, these were extra images that I added later to go along with our school themes.  I hand painted them with acrylic paint.  If you want to add some birds or additional art, google up some decorative bird images to work from.  If you don't consider yourself much of an artist, check out your local craft store and see what kind of stencils are available.  The animals aren't really necessary to create a peaceful setting, and adding too much may even become a little busy for your liking, so don't get too caught up in the idea and appreciate what a simple tree painting has to offer.

If you have any additional questions or comments, please reach out and I'll do my best to give you any advice or input you are looking for.  Thanks for reading along!


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Cpi said...

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Anonymous said...

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