I don’t usually start doing tree studies until autumn, but in teaching one of my students how to paint a landscape, we stepped away from the whole scene to practice single trees. I’d forgotten how much I like doing these!
First, I used the lightest color to paint the whole mass of leaves, making the edges said “leaf shapes” and leaving some holes for the birds.
When that layer was dry, I added the shadow shapes using a darker value. Softening some of the edges of the shadow shapes helps blend them in with the shapes in the light. When that layer was dry, I painted in the trunk and branches, weaving the branches behind the lightest leaves.
These studies are small, about the right size for making into greeting cards.