I started this exercise with just some basic tree shapes. Nothing special, but I wanted to go through this process for two specific reasons.
I felt that it was too easy to lose myself in painting the foliage and at the same time losing the basic shape. I often found myself creating all these smaller areas that only made the foliage and tree shape unclear and weak.
Also, I often drew the tree starting with the branches. This sounds weird maybe, but I did it. Probably without thinking. Starting with a basic shape helps me to define where branches are and why.
This time I added a little bird house just underneath the top foliage to help focus, giving it some character, purpose or meaning.