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Tree Painting Step-by-Step Demo: Forest in the Style of Klimt

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The Inspiration for the Klimt-style Tree Painting
Tree Painting Step by Step Demo -- Tree Painting in the Style of Klimt

Starting with a sketch and blocking in background color.

Image: ©2007 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Mention the painter Gustav Klimt and people are more likely to think of paintings with gold leaf such as The Kiss or Hope II, rather than paintings of forests and trees. But Klimt was also a painter of landscapes. My favorites are his moody paintings of forests or groups of trees, such as these:

Klimt's forest paintings are done on a square canvas (which suggested a "sense of quiet"1), with the tree trunks sharply cut off by the top of the canvas (leaving your imagination to allocate a final height to them). On closer inspection, you'll see that the trees in his later forest paintings are more distinctive or individual than in his earlier paintings. Klimt's passion was the "essence of things behind their mere physical appearance"2, captured with very fine tonal gradations. Klimt is also known to have used a viewfinder or binoculars to select a part of a landscape to paint.3

The painting in this step-by-step demo was inspired by Klimt's forest paintings and a pine forest in a nature reserve near to where I used to live. Although as this reference photo shows, it's dominated by dark tree trunks and a bright forest floor covered in dead pine needles, it was just a starting point, and the final painting ended up far more of an autumnal forest. The first step was to sketch in the composition...

References:
1. Gustav Klimt Landscapes by Johannes Dobai (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1988), p11.
2. Ibid, p12.
3. Ibid, p28.

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