2764. Another difficult thing to paint is foliage. Many great paintings have come to grief because of the difficulty and complexity of foliage, especially the countless little leaves and the branches. Since leaves and branches are so hard to paint the artist often treats them in the same way as shadows; he paints as many leaves and branches of a tree is he can stand to paint, and then has the rest be cut off by the frame of the picture.
So it is that often you will see a scene painted, let us take for
example some old master picture of Mary and Joseph on the flight into
Egypt. If there is a tree in the composition, you can be sure that its
leaves and branches will be coming in from the side and cut off by the
edge of the frame.
Much better still is to leave the trees out altogether, just put the figures in a desert. But leave the bulk of the foliage and branches to the
imagination of the viewer of the picture; don't attempt to deliver the details in
all their infinitude. Worst yet, and to be always avoided is the tree,
the top of which can be seen, sitting right there in the middle of the
2767. A complete tree, right in the middle of a composition, requires an infinite amount of time to even begin to indicate its complexity, and yet, at the same time, by it size, reduces the important parts of the picture — the figures — to such a small size that they look like puppets or mannequins.