5 Keys For Landscape Painting

5 Keys For Landscape Painting

When painting landscapes it is easy to become overwhelmed and confused about what to do when.

Landscapes can be a complicated subject but they can easily be simplified. One of the things I have observed watching very good artists is that they all have a working process and they all simplify the subject down. Sometimes knowing what to leave out is just as important to knowing what to include in a landscape painting.

As I have progressed with my landscape painting I have developed rules or principles that I work by. Actually I did not develop them … I just learnt them through observation. These 5 keys for landscape painting will give you a framework you can use to improve the quality of your painting.

The 5 keys of landscape painting are:

1/ Paint Thin To Fat – When you start out you should be painting with thinned down paint. This is true for both oil and acrylic painting. You want your initial application of paint (the block in stage) to be with thin paint. As you progress the painting you can then start using thicker paint with the thickest paint applied usually being the highlights at the end.

2/ Dark To Light – With oil and acrylic painting you are best to work dark to light. In other words you will want to start out painting your darkest darks and work progressively towards the lightest lights (highlights) in your painting. Now if you combine this rule with the first then it makes sense that your darks are the thinnest paint and as you work towards your lights the paint becomes thicker.

3/ Large To Small – Always start with big shapes and work towards small details. One mistake many beginners make is they get into detail work too early. Start out with big shapes and get those right first. Then progressively refine these big shapes and apply small details at the end. By doing so you will ensure you keep the big picture firmly in mind and keep everything in balance. The little details come right at the end of the painting.

4/ Big Brush To Small Brush – Start out your painting using big brushes. Remember at this point you are painting big shapes so it makes sense to use big brushes. Resist the temptation to grab your liner brush until right at the very end. You will notice from my online painting courses and the learn to paint DVD’s that I mostly use a 1″ bristle brush or a pastry brush for at least 80% of the painting. Using a big brush enables you to get paint down fast and block in all of your key areas.

5/ Limited Palette – You want to limit your palette to just a handful of key colours. This will create colour harmony through out your painting. Beginners get into trouble because they have 23 different colours on their palette and they never learn to mix colours correctly. You should learn how to mix colours by using just a limited palette. My palette consists of Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre & Burnt Sienna plus Titanium White. So throw away your leaf green dark and learn how to mix colours from a limited palette. What you will find is much greater harmony and unity in your paintings.

If you follow these 5 keys you will see an immediate improvement in your landscape painting.

At first you will need to think about these keys consciously but after a few months you will find yourself doing them automatically. When you start to follow these keys unconsciously your painting will move to the next level as it frees your creative mind to focus more on things like subject matter, composition etc.

If you want to learn more about landscape painting then take a look at our online painting courses ‘Painting Landscapes – Level I‘ and ‘Painting Landscapes – Level II

Let me know your thoughts or questions about these 5 keys of landscape painting below.

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