Monday, October 31, 2011

In the Style of Friedrich: Spooky Trees

Happy Halloween everyone!  I have been waiting to do this post....Caspar David Friedrich 1774-1840 was a German landscape painter often thought of as one of the key artists of Romanticism.  I often present his work "Monk by the Seashore" when teaching open composition.  Today we are looking at his "Abbey in an Oak Forest" which shows his atmospheric use of light and his great "spooky" trees.

Using Friedrich's work as inspiration you can create a great spooky scene in very little time.  Perfect Halloween art project.


- yellow construction paper
- black washable markers
- water
- paintbrush
- black disk tempera
- black paper
- small scrap of repositionable contact paper, optional
- glue
- scissors


Using your black washable markers draw out your spooky trees.  Although I was adding parts of the building here it actually looks better if you just concentrate on the trees.

If you have some of that contact paper lying around trace out a circle.  If you don't have any don't sweat it you can add a moon with some yellow paper later.

Apply to the area where you want your moon to be.
Using plain water brush over your trees. Just enough to moisten.

Immediately your trees will begin to bleed and distort...perfect!

Let dry.  It won't take too long and don't worry if your paper starts to ripple, that's what you want.

Using the tempera disk paint mix a really watery black.  Paint in the horizon line as well as the dark sky.  Leave mostly yellow in the sky near the horizon line.

Paint right over top that contact paper sticker.

Let dry, will only take a few minutes.

Remove sticker.  If you didn't have any contact paper now is the time you can cut a circle out of yellow paper and glue into place.

Cut a spooky house out of black paper and glue onto your paper.

You can some details with a fine sharpie if you wish.

That's it...a very easy spooky scene.  Check out this website for more of Friedrich's trees.

Hope everyone has a great Halloween!


  1. Great effect with the washable markers. I'm going to have to pin this for next Halloween.I love he results! Thanks!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing all these neat techniques with us!! I am learning so much from your site!

  3. I love the results in your spooky trees.
    Thanks for sharing

    Happy Halloween

  4. I love the blurry trees -- will definitely think about how to use this technique for other projects, too. Thanks!

  5. I don't want to wait until next year to do this. Maybe I can use blue markers and light blue paper? Give it a wintery look--- hummmmmm. I'll let you know if I do it how it worked!

  6. Gail! How fantastic is this? I have bookmarked this so i can play next fall
    AND also link to it as it is definitely worth repeating!

    Thank you! This is brilliant!

  7. Hi Gail,
    I have completed some clay owls and linked back to your owl post. Hope you don't mind.We displayed them on spooky trees too