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3 Tips for Landscape Painting

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Posted by Aubrey Santana
3 Tips for Landscape Painting

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Tips for Landscape Painting & Drawing

Drawing and painting landscapes is as popular as it’s ever been despite the fact that we live in a world of smartphones with ultra-sophisticated cameras. This is probably because the challenge of depicting our environment is still one that intrigues artists across all mediums. After all, it’s no easy feat to get the hues of a sunset over mountains correct or the depth and breadth of an ocean on one small canvas.

Whether you love trees and the forest or prefer the hustle and bustle of a city, there are certain aspects of landscape art that are the same no matter the locale. Here are a few suggestions you can use to help you become a better landscape artist.

Plein Air vs. Photos

Should you paint from real life or from photos? This is a question many beginning artists ask. Some painters prefer to work from real life in an actual setting. This is known as painting en plein air (outdoors). Artists who regularly do watercolor, oil, or acrylic landscape painting outside agree that it’s a better way to capture the true shades of the landscape. Sunlight puts a large even light across a landscape that gives the truest values (lights and darks) compared to a photograph that flattens the colors and gives little or equal value to the shades. Also, looking at the actual surroundings helps them achieve the correct scale and perspective.

But most of all, artists who work outdoors especially love the focus and personal time they get being out of the studio, seeing things firsthand. Working on peaceful scenery allows you to use most of your senses—seeing the landscape, hearing the birds or a faraway train, smelling the flowers or pine trees, feeling the breeze on your face.

There are many advantages for artists who primarily work in the studio from photo references. First of all, they can complete their artwork in several stages. They always have the photo as a guide, which never changes. Being inside allows them to paint in any weather or at any time of the day. Their supplies are always handy. Many successful landscape artists only paint indoors and some only from their imagination.

Tip 1. You don’t have to paint everything.

Whether you’re working inside or outdoors, it’s important to know that you don’t have to include absolutely everything. That means you don’t need to put in every leaf of the tree or every brick on a building. By adding a few specific details and then leaving off or generalizing the rest, you let the viewer’s mind fill in the rest while taking in the entire scene.

Also, an important part of any artwork is composition, and if something in the landscape doesn’t work from a compositional point of view, it’s okay to leave it out. The same goes for adding and switching elements around.

Realism vs. Abstract

The great thing about landscape painting is that there is not just one way to capture the environment around us. Landscape art can be highly detailed and realistic or it can be broken down into simple shapes and colors for a contemporary landscape painting. Whether you choose realism, abstract, or a combination of the two, it boils down to developing your own personal style. But it’s also worthwhile to try out new approaches, techniques, and mediums to keep your work fresh. Who knows, you may discover you love doing the exact opposite of what you’ve been doing.

Tip 2. Draw your viewer’s attention.

Whether you’re portraying a realistic picture or creating one in abstract, try to keep in mind where you want your viewer’s attention to be drawn. How do you want their eyes to move across the surface? By creating a focal point, you draw the viewer’s attention within and this invites them to explore everything on the canvas, instead of glancing at it and leaving.

This point can be a structure, a color, or an interesting use of space. An effective way to do this is by placing your focal point in the foreground. This is where you can put most of the detail, since wherever you put the most detail is likely to be where your viewer’s attention will go.

Color Mixing vs. Straight from the Tube

Many painters scoff at the idea of buying certain colors, such as green since it’s an easy color to mix yourself. However, getting the same shade of green every time can be quite difficult, especially when you’re just starting out. Using pigment straight from the tube gives you the same shade every time with no surprises.

Color mixing is a skill all artists should practice. By mixing your own hues, you get the most unique and varied shades. Once you establish a palette of hues you use the most, it will become easier to mix the same shade over and over.

Tip 3. Start with a limited palette.

It’s easy to overcomplicate a landscape by using lots of colors. The truth is that most landscapes are simply various shades of just a few. By using a limited palette of just some of the most prevalent hues, you get a harmonious look with the feeling of space and depth.

It is useful to make simple value scales of the most dominant colors. If your landscape is full of greens, start with one shade of green and add a little black. Keep making separate piles of dark green, adding a little more black each time to see how dark you can get it. Now, start with the same green and add a little white. Make little dollops of light green by adding more and more white. You can do this by adding yellow or blue to the green as well. When you add red, you’ll be surprised at the rich black it will create.

Making landscape art is as simple as looking out the window, taking a pen or paintbrush, and putting what you see on paper or canvas, from a couple of lines representing a lush forest to a realistic-looking stormy sea. We hope we’ve encouraged and inspired you. Whether you’re the next great landscape artist or just a spare-time doodler, Arteza offers a wide selection of pens, paper, paints, canvasses and more to help you create your next masterpiece.

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