For centuries artists have looked to Mother Nature for creative inspiration. In fact, Mother Nature has been the subject of countless paintings, drawings, sketches and sculptures, each representing her breathtaking beauty.
Landscape painting or sketching are examples of this, where the focus of the artwork is on trees, mountains, forests, deserts, waterfalls, cliffs and valleys, any natural landscape that is spread out in front of us, or in our minds. Whether you want to paint in large, wide strokes, or tiny detail, check out Arteza’s range of canvas boards and panels, from big to small.
A short history
Landscape painting has been around for centuries, and has always been popular among artists. In the East Asia, particularly China and Japan, landscape painting was considered one of the most prestigious types of art, however, in the West, up until the 19th century it held a relatively low position on the so-called hierarchy of genres. This led to landscape art all but disappearing during the Middle Ages.
Only towards the end of the Medieval Period, around the 14th century, did landscape art start to gain some traction again. By the early 15th century, it had once again prevailed as a genre in its own right in Europe, albeit of relatively minor importance. Religion was a major source of inspiration during this period.
The Renaissance saw the genre gaining a greater following and manner of importance through the 16th and 17th centuries. However, with the decline of religious painting in predominantly Calvinist societies, as well as the rise of Romanticism during the 18th and 19th centuries that landscape painting started to come into its own. During this time, landscape painting (especially watercolor) became extremely popular in England, and many painters working in the region became renowned specialists in the genre.
During the 19th century, French painters, who were not known for their landscape work, began to turn their gaze towards this kind of subject matter. While slow to start, French artists developed a style of landscape painting that went on to influence the rest of Europe for nearly a century. Towards the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century, landscape painting started becoming a symbol of nationalism, particularly in North America and Russia, where enormous paintings featuring epic scenery were produced.
After the World War One landscape painting again began to lose momentum, however, by then it had been firmly established as a genre among a dwindling traditional hierarchy of genres. Prominent artists like Milton Avery and David Hockney continued to paint landscapes on a regular basis.
Contrary to popular belief, landscape art doesn’t have to be strictly realistic, it can also be abstract in nature. Landscapes in ancient art are often depicted in abstract ways, sometimes using bold colours. These abstract paintings may represent more than just the trees in the field that it is based on, as is the case with most abstract art. Abstract landscapes were also distinct styles of some twentieth-century artists like Henri Matisse and André Derain, two French painters who started a movement called Fauvism early in the century. Fauvism is known for its broad, colorful strokes and bold, often discordant depictions of landscapes and natural splendor.
In fact, a large number of famous artists became known for their non-realism landscapes, these include the likes of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin and David Hockney, to name a few. Taking it a step further were surrealist artists like Salvador Dalí, the Pauls Klee, Delvaux, and Nash, Yves Tanguy and André Masson.
Photo or real life
As far as subject matter goes, landscapes painting is a broad term that includes cloudscapes, seascapes, skyscapes and even cityscapes, as long as the focus of the work is the scenery. And just because the art depicts nature in some way or form, it doesn’t mean that you have to be in the actual setting to paint it, or as the French call it, plein air (outdoors). Many artists actually prefer to use photographs, because they can paint in their own studio and aren’t beholden to things like the weather or the shifting light of the sun. Photographs can also be used for composite landscapes, where elements from different photographs are painted into one landscape.
Of course then there’s also painting from memory or imagination, which can have some very interesting results. To this end, many artists work off of quick sketches. They’ve made of landscapes while they were out hiking, or stopped on the side of the road during a road trip. In fact, very often these sketches are themselves works of art.
Add some life
In the age of smartphones and the internet, a picture of a breathtaking landscape is only a click away. But artists continue to feature landscapes in their work. Photographs can sometimes feel lifeless and cold. Paintings and sketches contain little bits of the personality of the artist. Because of this, it will remain a favourite subject matter among artists.
Quick landscape painting tips
Don’t paint everything
If you’d like to try your hand at painting landscapes, it’s important to know that you don’t always have to include absolutely everything into the painting. An important part of any painting is composition, and if something in the landscape doesn’t work from a composition point of view, leave it out. The same goes for adding and switching elements around, all for the sake of an interesting painting.
What’s in the foreground?
Another important element of composition is detail and focus. Not everything has to be painted in the finest of detail, in fact, it shouldn’t be. The focus of most landscape paintings is on what’s in the foreground, thus requiring more detail than the background. Wherever you’d like to draw the viewer’s attention to, there you should paint the most detail.
It’s all in the green
Many painters scoff at the idea of buying green paint, as 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. And while this type of inconsistency usually adds character, it might not be ideal for landscape painting. In the same breath, mixing colors consistently is a great skill to have and allows you to mix exactly the shade you’re looking for, which might not be available in a tube.
Creating landscape art is as simple as looking out of your window, taking a pen or paintbrush, and put what you see on paper or canvas from a couple of lines representing a lush forest and pale blue sky, to a realistic masterpiece of a stormy sea.
Whether you’re the next Monet, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Matisse or Dalí, 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.