How To Paint A Landscape – Step By Step (Part 2)
In this series on how to paint a landscape I will take you step-by-step through one of the projects in our online course Painting Landscapes – Level 2. This is part 2 … if you missed part 1 then go here How To Paint A Landscape – Step By Step
In part 2 I continue developing the painting further and get into a lot of the detail work.
In the above photo I am now at the point where I need to start developing the middle distance trees and the foreground trees. These play a key role in the painting. The first step is to strengthen the dark’s in the trunks, branches and foliage shapes. Some of the dark’s where lost as I painted in the sky and background. So I remix the dark and strengthen it on the middle distance trees. Remember the middle distance trees do not want to be as strong or dark as the foreground trees. I also add highlights on the light side of these trees. The highlight colour is mixed using the dark and then warming the colour with Cadmium Yellow and Alizarin Crimson and then lightening it with a touch of Titanium White.
As I have developed the middle distance trees the farm buildings now need to be tightened up. So I make sure the edges around the main buildings are sharper and where the sun is catching the roof in a couple of places if brighter. This is the focal point where we want the eye to be drawn to so it is important that we have just enough detail to be able to make sense of the subject. When you use hard edges you draw the object into focus. The key is not to make all of the edges in the focal area too sharp. Just enough so that the farm building are brought into attention in the painting.
Now I go to work on the main trees following the same process I used on the middle distance trees. I darken the trunks, branches and foliage (this time with Ultramarine Blue & Burnt Sienna), and then follow the same process to highlight the light side of the foliage. The highlights on the tree trunks is a mix of Cadmium Orange and Titanium White. Do not over do the highlights on the trunks … just enough so that your eye understands there is light reaching the side of the tree. By having a strong shadow on the opposite side it further develops the illusion.
One of the most important things that I do when I am painting is to stand back a few meters from the painting. This way you get to see the painting as most people will when it is finished … as one whole unit. When we are busy painting we do not see the whole painting but rather the tree we are working on. If you do not develop the habit of stepping back from the painting then you can not see how the overall balance and impact of the painting is working. In our art classes I am constantly getting our students standing up and looking at their work from a distance.
You can see that I have the highlight colour on the foliage and I am now using a script liner (or rigger brush) to add in additional branches. Old gum trees have lots of broken and dead branches sticking out all over the place so I add a few of them in.
Time now to work on the foreground. We need to make the foreground interesting yet not dominate the eye. The foreground in this painting needs to be a pathway to the main center of interest in the painting. Here I am using a flat brush and I am flicking in some grass around the base of the tree. In this case I wasn’t that happy with it so I took some paper towel and wiped it all back and started again. Do not be afraid to wipe back parts of your painting if they are not working.
I did eventually get the foreground the way I wanted it … I added in a fence post in the right hand side to fill that empty space. I also added in an old dead tree trunk with grasses growing. Now we are getting close to the end I go over the whole painting and make adjustments to ensure everything is in balance. Here I am adjusting the bottom of the clouds to soften them back into the sky a little. I worked over the entire painting just making sure that there was nothing jumping out of the painting distracting the eye.
With the last minute adjustments made we arrived at a completed landscape painting. As a demonstration painting I was quite happy with it.
The most important thing about this two part article is that I want you to see that there are a series of logical steps you can follow when painting landscapes. These steps can be learnt and easily followed and they will greatly improve your landscape painting.
Leave your comments and questions below and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.