Painting trees and leaves with watercolor and mixed media: Stick Figures

Watercolor triptych, painting trees and leaves with watercolor: Stick Figures

by Sandrine Pelissier on May 7, 2013

in New work, Painting technique, Step by step demonstrations, Watercolor painting basics

watercolor and mixed media on paper mounted on board

Stick Figures
Watercolor and mixed media on paper mounted on board,
3 times 24 x 24 inches



My latest watercolor and mixed media landscape, I wanted to try painting a bigger sized watercolor but was limited by the size of my paper and the boards I had available so I thought painting a triptych was a way to paint bigger while keeping my process of mounting paper on board manageable. I also thought the interruption introduced by the 3 boards would add some rhythm to the existing rhythm of the tree trunks.

For this painting I decided to use two different techniques : I painted the leaves directly, having colors mingle wet in wet for interesting effects and bright colors  and I used a layering technique for the trunks to have more control on color and tone variation. Here are, in more details the steps I took.

mounting watercolor paper on board

I started by mounting my paper on board, to see a step by step tutorial of this process, click here:

limited palette

I will use a limited palette for this landscape

watercolor palette

Holbein: cobalt turquoise light, permanent red,
Daniel Smith : Burnt Sienna
Da Vinci Prussian blue, Cadmium Lemon Yellow and Viridian Green
Rembrandt : Medium yellow,
Van Gogh: Madder Lake Light
Reeves Payne Grey

painting a light background

I start by painting very light washes on the background, painting around the tree trunks areas.

painting leaves wet in wet

I paint the background leaves, mixing colors wet in wet so the colors are mixing on the paper rather than on my palette and are producing nice textures and changes of color.

painting leaves wet on wet

Here is a close up of the leaves area

foliage painted

Here is the triptych with all the background and foliage painted

masking leaves

Before painting the trunks I need to protect the few areas where leaves are in front of the trunk area, as it would take too much time to paint around.I paint over those leaves with masking fluid. I am also masking a few lines in between trees.

layering watercolors

Then I can start painting the first layer of yellow.

painting the blue layer

Once it is totally dry I continue layering the primary colors, painting now a blue layer ( Prussian Blue)

red layer of watercolor

Then I paint a layer of red, using the Holbein Permanent red.

adding more layers

The next step is to paint more layers to adjust the colors until I am satisfied with the final color. I added many successive layers, always waiting in between for the previous layer to be thoroughly dried, so the colors stay vibrant.

removing masking fluid

I the take off the masking fluid on all the paintings, it is leaving very hard edges that would look unnatural if left as is.

softening edges

To soften those hard edges left by the masking fluid, I will use a very stiff brush and a bit of water. This is an old brush that I did cut closer to the handle so it stays very stiff.

softened edges

Here are some edges softened.

splashing with colors and gouache

Finally, the last step is to splash the watercolor and add some drips, the fun part!
I am using a wash of yellow and red and some of the cobalt blue mixed with China white (gouache) as I like the milky appearance it is adding to that blue. Some of those colors will mix on the paper.

splashing with watercolor and gouache

To achieve an even and continuous splashing effect, I lay the triptych panels side by side on the floor and start splashing. I will also lay the panels at a 30 degrees angle and add some drips along the trunks.

close up

Here are a few close ups of the drips and textures.

close up

close up

close up

close up


Watch a time lapse video :



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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Lee Simmons November 20, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Oh my! What beauty! Why didn’t I find you online when we lived in West Van?! Would have loved to take some classes from you. Is your studio open every Sunday or only by invitation? We sometimes get down to Vancouver and would love to meet you.

now residing in Keremeos


Sandrine Pelissier November 20, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Hello Lee,
Let me know if you pass by North Vancouver, our studio is open by appointment every week day from 10 am to 2 pm, I would be happy to show you the place.
We also have the ART4U Thursdays where artists can join us to paint :
I am also scheduling a workshop every one to two months, if you subscribe to my newsletter you will be updated on all that :


Sonia May 8, 2013 at 11:01 am

Another stunning demo Sandrine – they just get better. A considerable amount of work, and you have managed to keep the continuity between the three pieces beautifully.


Sandrine Pelissier May 12, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Thanks Sonia, I am very pleased you liked it :)


Vicki S May 7, 2013 at 6:55 am

Hi Sandra,
I love your demos!
Do you teach classes?
I live in Vancouver, and would be very interested.


Sandrine Pelissier May 7, 2013 at 7:49 am

Hello Vicky,
Thanks for your comment :)

yes I teach individual classes on Monday mornings, between 10am and 1pm:
and we have also a mentoring program on Thursday mornings 10am to 2pm:
ART4U Thursdays:

If none of this times works, e-mail me at with times that would work for you.

Here are a few pictures of the studio, it is located in North Vancouver, one block West of Capilano mall, you are welcome to join us for our Sunday brunch as well:
sunday brunch at silent poetry


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