Weeping Willow Tree Tutorial!

Jayne from South Dakota has asked how to paint a weeping willow tree.

First, a primer….. With the Basic Techniques Series of Oil Painting I’m trying to teach youthe fundamentals of shape, color, highlighting, etc… Once you have the fundamentals under control so that you can use your brushes and mix color and how to put together paintings, we get into the real fun of oil painting. Concentrating on what we see and painting from either what we see or our imagination.

Let’s first look at a Weeping Willow Tree and see what’s there ….
Weeping Willow
What do you see? Without reading any further, quickly pull out a piece of paper and jot down ten things you see about this tree.

Here’s my observations

1. The tree is nearly as wide as it is high.
2. There are five main clumps of branches. I shall call them main branches.
3. There are two main branches at the top, two at the side and one facing forward.
4. Each Main Branch has multiple auxiliary branches.
5. All leaves and all branches hang down like moss giving a weird look like clumps of grapes.
6. The branches do not go all the way to the ground. So painting this would mean leaving a foot or so of spacing between the end of the lowest branches to the ground.
7. The tree trunk is barely visible
8. The interior of the branches are major dark.
9. Highlights are on all of the main branches and some of the auxiliary branches.
10. The Tree trunk color will be Van Dyke Brown slightly highlighted. I could make better use of reflective highlight in painting this tree.
11. The branches are a light yellow green (Sap Green).
12. Two highlights are needed.
14. Yellow/Green highlight for over the dark
15. Mint green as the topical (Sunlight) highlights over the Yellow/Green highlight.
16. No wood from either main or auxiliary branches appear to be visible.

Just by making these observations you’ve answered about every question except for what brush…..

1. I’d probably choose a palette knife for making the tree trunk.
2. Following the shape loosely, I’d probably use a 1″ brush for the underpainting of the dark color.
3. I’d highlight both colors (mint or Yellow/Green with an Alexander Mop or a filbert brush that is approx. 1″ wide.

Just apply the highlights lightly for both colors using your bigge filtert.


1. Lourdes Nichols said: Thank you Darell you are not only teaching me to paint, you are also teaching me to SEE. I found this instruction excellent as I have lots of enthusiasm but little natural ability.
2. Kathy Rice said: Darrell, thank you so much for your wonderful teaching. You have a great gift from God and I thank you for sharing it.

3. lynn10 said: Teaching me how to SEE was great. When I squinted my eyes, I could see the shape even better. Thanks.
Silky said: Thank you Darrell I found this very helpful.
estellejbrown said: Darrell, thank you for the wonderful insights and instructions as they relate to oil painting!!!