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landscape painting & drawing

A landscape painting or drawing refers to an artwork whose primary focus is natural scenery, such as mountains, forests, cliffs, trees, rivers, valleys, etc.

If you want to learn how to paint landscapes, this section will help you get started!

The earth is a wondrous creation. From barren deserts to lush rainforests; from swelling oceans to cloudy skies... the earth provides endless inspirations for visual artists. Nature's palette is everywhere we look. Throughout history, artists have found endless inspiration in the mysterious beauty of nature and the grandeur of the earth's varied landscapes.

Landscape artists can choose to depict their vision of the earth in a variety of ways. They can be painted realistically, in an effort to replicate nature as closely as possible (such as my Fields of Gold pastel painting below). But landscape painting does not need to replicate a specific place. For instance, a landscape painting can be created in an abstract manner, in which the imagery is imbued with a deeper spiritual meaning. A good example of artists who work in this method are the Aboriginal artists of Australia who create intensely detailed abstract paintings.(You can see an example of one of my colorful abstract landscape paintings below, which was inspired in part by Australian Aboriginal art.) Another group of painters who adapted the use of color to form highly emotional, creative landscapes are the Fauvists, who chose wildly unexpected colors for a jarring and unsettling effect. Landscapes can also be surreal and purely imaginative, as in Dali's unusual and dreamlike artwork.

Two very different landscape paintings:

Landscape Painting in Abstract Style (Title: Quoi d'autre)

Today Is - 6" x 6" - Acrylic on Wood Panel

Pastel Landscape Painting (Title: Fields of Gold)

Fields of Gold - 15" x 19" - Pastel on Paper

Landscape paintings also aren't necessarily limited to depictions of land. For example, they can also include images of seascapes, cloudscapes, skyscapes, riverscapes, or cityscapes (otherwise known as "urban landscapes"). The main unifying element of any of these -scape artworks is that they all center around some kind of scenery.

Landscapes can be painted plein air or from a photograph. Plein air is a French term that means "in the open air". The benefit of plein air painting is that you can see the landscape right in front of you. You are already immersed and absorbed in the beauty of the scenery. There are, however, benefits to working from a photograph as well. If you work from photographs, you can work in the comfort and privacy of your own studio, without being dependent on daylight or the weather. You can also take certain elements from different photos to create a unique composite landscape. For example, if you like a hill from one photo and a gnarly old tree from another photo, you can combine them into the same landscape. Then if want to put a flowing river in front of them, you can.

You can also work from quick landscape studies or sketches. If you're out hiking and there is a lovely view that strikes your eye, you can easily whip out a small sketchbook or watercolor pad and use pencils, colored pencils, or watercolor to quickly make a sketch of what you see. It often helps to write notes next to the sketch, so you remember what color certain leaves were, or what shade the sky was. Oftentimes these "quick sketches" turn out to be wonderful works of art in their own right!

Pencil Sketch of English Countryside

I sketched this scene during a long walk in the Sussex countryside. If you look closely, you can see some tiny scribbled notes that I made about color.

Digitally Colored Sketch of English Countryside

I scanned the sketch into Photoshop and used my scribbled notes to remember what colors to put where. The result was this digital "sketch", which could be used as the starting point for a future painting.

funky flowers

In this digital age, anyone with access to a camera can snap a beautiful photo of a breathtaking landscape. There are thousands of heart-stoppingly stunning landscape photos circulating the Internet. So, with such modern conveniences, why should anyone bother taking the time to painstakingly paint something that can be more easily captured on camera?

For lots of reasons!! For one thing, the machine can never replace the artist's hands, which work in conjunction with the artist's eyes and mind - analyzing the source of light, examining the range of hues and tones, filtering the mass of information and transforming the outer vision into painted reality. Artists can use a variety of techniques within their chosen medium to add emotional undertones to a work of art. They can choose wild, "unnatural" color schemes that are expressive and striking. They can take creative liberties to rearrange elements in a scene, adding something here, subtracting something there, to create a compelling composition. Their landscapes can be realistic, or they can be abstract or surreal. When it comes to art, the possibilities are as endless as the imagination. Landscape painting was a highly regarded art form long before the invention of the camera, and will always continue to capture the hearts and imaginations of artists and art enthusiasts alike.


Learn all about plein air painting in oils with accomplished artist, Connie Nelson.

Draw Groovy, a fun new step-by-step drawing book by Thaneeya McArdle, to be published by F+W Media

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