Masking Tape Birch Tree Paintings


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Having seen this lesson done with younger students, I wanted to “take it up a notch” by introducing some more advanced watercolor painting concepts alongside this fun masking tape technique.

We began by planning out our tree shapes with the masking tape, using the torn pieces to create  natural and organic forms on white watercolor paper. (Tree reference pictures are very important here!) We used watercolor washes to paint the sky, background, and foreground, —right over the tape! Students used a mixing tray to control the paint tones and a proper watery consistency. Wet-into-wet blending of different colors directly on the paper was encouraged to create a natural look. In some cases, students used specialized techniques, such as adding salt or plastic wrap to areas of wet paint to create unique textures. After the paint was dry, we carefully peeled away the masking tape to reveal the pure white trees.

Using Ebony pencil, we added small branches and horizontal textures for our birch bark. We added pale watercolor shadows on the trees to help give them form, and, —depending on the desired “seasonal” effect,— other personalized details such as splatters, fences, grasses, animals, footprints, etc.

Examples shown here include “fall themed” paintings, which were 8.5″ by 11″ and completed in TWO class periods(!!!), and “winter themed” versions which were 11″ by 14″ and took approximately five class periods. The winter themed students had already completed a landscape lesson earlier in their trimester, (see “Winter Windows”) and were thus more familiar with the concept of creating the illusion of depth on a two dimensional plane.

The students were so proud of these paintings! Watercolor can be tricky, but I encouraged them to embrace its loose and independent personality rather than trying to control it, assuring them it was OK to let the paint “do what it wants to do”!


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