painting trees and leaves with watercolor

Painting trees and leaves: On either side of the river, watercolor on paper

by Sandrine Pelissier on April 16, 2013

in New work, Step by step demonstrations

watercolor painting on paper

On either side of the river
Watercolor on paper
19 x 27 inches
CAD 650



This is my latest watercolor on paper, I did paint it for the watercolor biennale coming up at the Federation of Canadian Artists in Granville Island ( Vancouver ). I had a few guidelines to follow : the size had to be 19 x 27 which is the size of the IKEA Ribba frame, most artists will use that frame so the exhibition looks more uniform. The painting had to be framed, these days I really like to mount my watercolors on board and varnish them but well, most watercolor societies and exhibitions won’t accept varnished or mounted watercolors.


watercolor paints

I am using a limited palette, Yellow Lemon and Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Viridian green, Ultramarine blue, Cobalt Turquoise light, Permanent Alazarin Crimson and Paynes grey. With those colors I can mix an array of green, blue, and brown tones that will make most of the picture.


My favorite brush is an angular flat brush as I find it very versatile. I will also use a small brush for details like tiny branches, a large flat brush for larger washes like the trees trunk first layer of painting.
Finally I will use my old stiff brush for scrubbing off paint, it is a flat brush that i did cut shorter to make it very stiff.

preserving whites and painting the background

Once I have my drawing on the paper ( Arches 140 lb, hot press), I start by reserving a few whites with liquid frisket. I then start painting the background around the trees, starting from light yellow to darker greens. I also paint the few leaves in front of the trunks.

painting the background

Working one section at a time I paint the background looking at my reference picture reproducing the tones of yellow, green, browns and the blue.

first layer on the trees trunks

For the next step, I apply liquid frisket on the leaves I painted that are located in front of the tree trunks. Then I am applying a first wash on the trees trunks.

painting the bark texture

I then work on the bark of the trees, rendering the textures by scrumbling the paint.

removing liquid frisket

I am removing the liquid frisket, and will now paint the tiny branches

softening edges

The next step for me is to soften the edges that were around the liquid frisket areas. Those areas will often have very hard unnatural edges. I soften most of those edges with my stiff brush and a bit of water

keeping some edges sharp

I am keeping some edges very sharp on the lower part of the painting to represent the light shining on the river water.

watercolor painting on paper

On either side of the river
Watercolor on paper
19 x 27 inches

Watch the whole process on this time lapse video, in about 3 minutes.


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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Valerie February 4, 2014 at 9:44 pm

I really like your work and how you blend in the watercolors on the last
painting above, also enjoy the tutorials.


Sandrine Pelissier February 5, 2014 at 7:16 am

Thanks Valerie :)


Neeti Hegde April 23, 2013 at 1:55 am

This looks so real and beautiful, you make it seem so simple!


Sandrine Pelissier April 23, 2013 at 6:15 am

Thanks Neeti :)


Liz April 20, 2013 at 9:57 am

Your videos are so inspirational. I really appreciate your generosity in sharing your talent and techniques. Thank you!


Marthie Scholer April 17, 2013 at 11:34 am

Your demos are soooo incredible good – I just started to paint and I’m so grateful I get your posts regularly, it is a great help and open for me ‘ideas’ or ‘dreams’ what I want to try out!!!


Sandrine Pelissier April 18, 2013 at 4:00 am

Hello Marthie, it is very rewarding for me to get nice comments like yours :) thanks!


Elizabeth Carr April 17, 2013 at 9:00 am

Where did you find that music for your video? Perfect! I so enjoy watching your demos.


Sandrine Pelissier April 17, 2013 at 9:53 am

Thanks Elizabeth, the music is from


Gloria Sharber April 16, 2013 at 7:23 am

Beautiful artwork, I just LOVE IT…THANKS FOR SHARING!
You are my inspiration.
Cheers, Gloria


Sandrine Pelissier April 17, 2013 at 6:00 am

Thanks Gloria, I am happy to hear that :)


Pauline April 16, 2013 at 6:41 am

Hi, just caught your latest painting On the other side. Congraulations and good luck with it!Really lovely work! delightful you give us so much help and so many ideas
Thank you, Cheers Pauline


Sandrine Pelissier April 17, 2013 at 6:00 am

Thanks Pauline!


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