Landscape painting can be as simple or complicated as you make it for yourself. It's a brilliant artform for people who are just starting out with painting.
You can use a variety of materials and techniques to portray what you see in front of you. However, not many budding artists make the effort to truly master the art of landscape painting.
In this article, we break down 9 Great Techniques For Painting Better Landscapes.
#1: Avoid Creating A Clutter
Not everything that is present in the real-life scene has to be included in your depiction. Sometimes, a scene is really picturesque with all its elements, but may be too busy to be fully captured in a painting. It's your job to simplify this clutter and prioritize what has to be part of the painting.
Some things are disruptive to the composition of the painting. Others, a mere distraction for the viewer. You can choose to leave out entire buildings, or move them to a different area in the painting, all of which will contribute to an effective composition. A great way to simplify the scene is by starting with a value sketch.
Your focus, as an artist, should be on creating a painting that grabs your viewers' attention and guides their eyes throughout the composition through color, lines and value contrast.
#2: Give The Illusion Of Numbers
In landscape painting, it is often a better idea in many situations to give the illusion of numbers, instead of trying to paint every object individually.
For instance, if you happen to be painting a forest of trees, don't paint each tree individually. Not only would that be quite complicated to paint, it also won't have the artistic twinge that elevates your work. Instead, try to paint the general tones and shapes that inhabit the forest, and detail only a few trees. You will hence be able to depict a forest beautifully without having to paint so many elements.
#3: The Color of Light Determines the Color of Everything Else
On a sunny day, the light of the sun is bright, warm and more intense. On overcast days, all colors are dull and shifts in value are not as noticeable.
If the sunlight is bluish or red, every element in the scene must have some of that color reflected on it. The sunlight won't just make everything lighter, but also yellower.
The point being - mix the color of light into everything to get an idea of a specific atmosphere. This will make your painting harmonious in color, and more uniform in nature.
#4: Learn To Embrace Imperfection
Many new landscape artists make the mistake of chasing the perfect image. They want to smoothen every element of their painting - often at a compromise on realism, quality, and personality. Here's what you need to always remember: you're not trying to create a perfect rendition of the scene. If that was the aim, you could've just used a camera!
Imperfection is a part of nature. And it will be a part of your art. Learn to embrace imperfection because you can't possibly make everything perfect. Hence, you don't have to feel pressure to be completely accurate with structure, colors and values as you see in still life portraits and scenes. There is definitely a significant amount of leverage for artists in landscape painting. Of course, that's not an excuse to be sloppy!
#5: Atmospheric Perspective Influences Both Values And Colors
In many landscape paintings, the objects happen to be placed far away. Therefore the amount of atmosphere or air between the viewer and the object can be huge. Air contains floating particles and humidity that creates a filter that influences how we see the intensity and the value of colors.
You can witness this for yourself when driving on a highway. Trees and bushes closer to you are darker and crisper, whereas those closer to the horizon are lighter and grayer. This effect is called atmospheric perspective. When immersed in your landscape portrait, make sure to keep this factor in mind for a more realistic impression.
#6: Incorporate Timed Sketches To Improve Your Judgment
One of the best ways to improve on your landscape painting ability is to practice quick, timed sketches into your routine. Try to paint a simple landscape scene, and keep the canvas size as small as possible. Try and finish as soon as possible (not more than 30 minutes, as a general rule). You could do these from a photograph or “en plein air” (outdoors) – doesn't really matter!
The finished work won't necessarily be perfect, but that's not exactly the purpose. By painting these fast landscapes, you will learn to train your ability to judge colors and values, and eventually paint more instinctively.
#7: Give Preference To The Foreground
Don't make the mistake of painting the whole landscape to the same degree of detail. This takes away from the nuance in your picture. Instead, paint lesser detail in the background of the landscape than you do in the foreground.
This is helpful because it gives more 'authority' to what you place in your foreground. This difference in detail will also draw the attention of the viewer onto the main focus of the landscape painting.
#8: Use The Best Of Your Imagination
Most of the landscape paintings you set out to draw will not be postcard scenes, but rather meant to just capture the essence of the landscape.
If it makes for a stronger painting composition, don't hold back in rearranging the elements of the landscape. Or take elements from various landscapes and combine them all in one painting. Obviously, this won't work if you're painting a readily identifiable, famous scene. But if you're looking to just practice your craft and get better at it, this is a great way to begin!
#9: Enjoy The Experience!
Painting isn't easy work, and improving your craft is a lifelong pursuit. It's important to challenge yourself to learn from the artists who came before you, and from your contemporaries who inspire you.
However, don't let all of this get in the way of enjoying painting, and savoring the experience of being out in nature, and possibly having a pleasant day with your friends!
Many of the most skilled landscape artists are able to master their art because they're not in a rush to get anywhere. They're just fully immersed in documenting a time in their lives and are just happy to participate in an activity that has drawn artists for hundreds of years. If this is the mindset you keep, you'll be able to truly flourish in your art!
With all these techniques in mind, we hope you'll be able to improve your skills and become a more evolved artist over time. Happy Painting!
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— if you’re reading this and have tips of your own to share, please do so in the comments! Thank you!
Thumbnail Credit: Photo by Jade Stephens
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