How To Paint An Australian Landscape

How To Paint An Australian Landscape

In this article I am going to break down for you step-by-step the process for the painting ‘The Road To Mullumbimby“.

You can watch the episode from Learn To Paint TV here – Click Here To Watch Episode. To download the full length version of this project in high definition follow this link and look for Episode 2 – Follow This Link To Download

The painting is being done on a 16″ x 20″ stretched canvas.

I will be using Atelier Interactive Acrylic Paints. These are professional quality and are the best acrylic paints I have used.

The palette I use is really simple. I like to keep to a limited palette of Ultramarine Blue, Permanent Crimson (or Alizarin Crimson), and Yellow Ochre. They are my three primary colours. To these I add Titanium White and use Cadmium Yellow Medium (or light) to punch up my highlights.

All the other colours are mixes. If you are unsure how to mix colour then follow this link – How To Mix Colours For Artists


I  begin by finding the key elements in the photo. This is a reasonably complex photo so you will want to take your time with it.

Remember in the Moore Method of Painting our first step is to draw in our big shapes. I mix some Ultramarine Blue and Permanent Crimson together with some water. This is the colour I use for mixing. With a small flat bristle brush I start to mark key points for the main shapes.

Always try to simplify a complex photo down into the main big shapes. At this stage we want to ignore details. The key here is to start the painting off in the right way by placing the main shapes in the right place on our canvas.

As the main feature in the painting is the peak of the hill I work on getting this in early. All the other elements in the painting will work to support this. Notice I have the peak slightly off center. From a composition point of view it works better to not have your main center of interest on the center lines.


My next job is to map in the distant row of trees.

Do not try and draw in every leaf or branch here. I just draw a squiggley line to represent where the top of the tree line will go. I have also put in a small rectangle for the location of the house that is in the painting.


I continue you on adding in indications for the middle distance trees. Note i have drawn in the location of the road as well.

Keep adding water to your mix for the drawing stage. You want the paint to be thin here so it doesn’t show through later on in the painting.

Also be aware that I am not trying to draw a master piece here . Just finding the locations of the big shapes. Always keep this in mind. Keep it loose and fresh.


Now we move to Step 2 of the Moore Method of Painting. This is the block in step.

During this step our goal is to block in colour and establish our values structure.

Above you can see I have mixed up Ultramarine Blue with Titanium White. I am going to use this to block in the mountains first. As they are of in the distance you will want to reduce the saturation of the paint. As objects get further away in the distance they grey of, so the colour is less saturated.

You can easily achieve this by greying the mix down. To do this add just a pinch of the other two primary colours to it. so to Ultramarine Blue you can add the Permanent Crimson and Yellow Ochre. Just a pinch of the other two though.


As you can see above I am blocking this light blue grey colour into the main mountain.

It is quite a light value. This is important. You don’t want it to be as light as the sky will be, however it has to be light enough that we can darken the values as come forward in the painting.

I am using a larger flat bristle brush for this. When you have big areas to cover with paint use a big brush.


The middle distance row of trees are closer to us. So we want to darken the value.

This means a little less white in the mix. I added more Ultramarine Blue and Permanent Crimson. If you look at my palette you will see I keep mixing the darker values over the previous mix, however I save a little of the previous mix so I can compare the values.

I block this new mix in fairly loosely. No need to fuss with it. Use a variety of brush strokes.


Again we move forward in distance in the painting so we again darken the mix. Its easy to do just add more Ultramarine Blue and Permanent Crimson to the mix. Don’t add any more white unless you need to, but if you do add just a little at a time as it can easily over power your mix.

Once again block it in loosely.


Once more we come forward and darken the value. Follow the same procedure as before. See how I have left the space for the farmhouse on the hill. We will come back to this later on.

Note – Even though I have painted to the bottom of the canvas I have still not used my darkest value yet. We are saving this for the main tree.


The main tree is blocked in now. This is a mix of almost pure Ultramarine Blue & Permanent Crimson. It goes a nice strong dark which is part of the reason I like these colours on my palette.

Be aware that everything else we have blocked in so far has varying degrees of white in the mix and has leaned to the blue side. This mix now for the trees has more of the red in it and no white. So the result is our darkest dark.


The foreground hill is our closest element in the painting. So we want to make sure that it comes forward and everything else in the painting goes backwards. This is important for capturing a sense of realism in a painting.

For that reason we warm up the foreground hill. Always remember that warm colours come foreward while cool colours go back into the distance. Does it make sense now why most of our block in of the middle distance and back was dominated by a blue grey?

The warm mix in the foreground is simply Permanent Crimson and Yellow Ochre. Paint your brush strokes down along the line of the hill. With these closer elements the direction of your brush marks is important to define the shape.

In the middle distance there will be a patch of grass. Greens in a landscape always look better painted over a base that is on the warm (red) side. So I use the same mix as the foreground and lighten it with white, then paint that in.


Above you can see I painting in the road. This is the same mix we just used with a touch more white in it.


The sky is the lightest value in this painting. I use Titanium White with Ultramarine Blue added. Keep it light. Most beginners paint there skies too dark a value.

Also it is useful to know that skies are a gradient of colour. Usually darkest at the highest point and then lightening towards the horizon.

To capture this effect paint in horizontal bands. Lighten the colour with each band. Make sure you blend the bands of colour together though.


Lastly for Step 2 I mix a blue grey and block in the side of the farmhouse. I haven’t taken a lot of care in doing so as I know I will be re-shaping the edges later on.

That ends Step 2 of the Moore Method of Painting. We have now finished our block in phase. I recommend at this stage that you let the painting completely dry. Arylics don’t tend to cooperate when they are half dry at the tacky stage. So you either want to work with them when the paint is wet, or fully dry.

In this case I go for a break for an hour or so and let it fully dry.


Let’s get under way with Step 3 of the Moore Method of Painting. This is where we start to apply highlights, details and finishing touches to our painting.

In the photo above you can see that I have started highlighting the middle distance trees.

The key here is to find the right highlight colour. So how do you do that? If you have a look at my palette you will notice I have squeezed out fresh colours on a clean palette. And the first thing I did was to remix the middle distance colour I used to block in with.

When I find that colour again all you need to do is lighten it by adding white, and warm it up. Usually to warm it up you would add red and yellow. You just have to experiment until you are happy you have the right highlight colour.

Note in the above photo I am highlighting the trees on the top and right hand sides. That is because the light is coming from the top right hand side of the picture.


As I come forward in the painting I mix a darker in value highlight colour. Use the same procedure.

Look at the above photo and compare the highlight colours from the middle distance to the most distant trees. There is a big difference right? And you can already see the depth developing in the painting.


Next I pick out some trees to bring more into the spotlight. There is a lot of trees in this painting and keeping them all the same would be a mistake. So I strategically pick out some to bring more into the spotlight. And I vary the highlight colour up a bit as well for a bit of variety.


A green is mixed up for the distant field. Keep it a little on the dull grey side so it does not jump forward to much.


The brightest and warmest green is used for the foreground hill. Here I have included Cadmium Yellow Medium to punch up the colour a notch or two. This creates a lot of seperation to the distant hills.

A good thing to note is when I put these highlight colours on, especially when painting fields of grass, I leave some of the under paint to come through. See the glow of red coming through the distant field? Because Red and Green are compliments of each other they harmonise really well.


Now I highlight the road. This is just white with a bit of red and yellow. A nice light colour to contrast against the shadow side of the trees.


I add shadows back across the road. This breaks up the solid mass of the road colour. It also gives us a sense of light and shadow in the painting. This is so important in a landscape painting being able to convey a sense of light and depth. When you do you create atmosphere in your paintings and people will think you are an amazing artist.


At this point its good to step back and assess where you are up to with the painting. I realise I needed to shape a few of my trees up. So I spend some time making sure I am happy with them before moving on.


This is where it starts to get fun. Highlighting the main tree.

The same principle applies as we did previously. Only now, because this is our closest tree, we can really push the warmer highlight colours. I use a variety of different greens to highlight tree.

One thing I always stress to my students though is not to paint out all of your darks. The dark tones are as important as the highlights so preserve them.


Above you can see I am using the flat 1″ bristle brush to shape up the foliage in the trees. Take your time here and use the brush to best effect to shape the foliage correctly.


It is time to bring the farmhouse up to the same level as the other elements. Mix up a light blue grey and apply to the walls and roof. Notice it is a fair bit lighter than the shadow colour of the trees around it.


With a small rigger (or liner) brush I add in a few details. Just a few dark marks to indicate windows and so on is all it needs. Do not over do the details in the farm house. We want the farm house to be visible in the painting but not jump out and dominate. If you detail it to much it will draw too much attention.


Continuing on with the rigger brush I use the same blur grey from the farmhouse to paint in some branches in the main tree. Using the same colour ties the different elements in the painting together. This is one of the advantages of using a limited palette by the way. All of the colours will work together.


More branches and tree trunks are painted in.


With a darker mix and the rigger brush I add in darker tree trunks and branches. Place them carefully, lights against darks and darks against lights.


Use that light blue grey again to highlight some of the darker branches you have just painted in. Just a few clips of light here and there is all it needs.

Notice in the road I have added in some dark directional lines as well.


A few details are added into the foreground hill. I add more warmer yellows in for extra highlights.

You can see where I have flicked the green grass up against the dark shadow. Its a great effect. Just use the edge of a brush and drag the wet paint already there up with a flick.


We are getting towards the end of the painting now. I strengthen some of the highlights on the middle distance trees. You don’t want too much of a jump from the strength of the highlights on the main tree compared to the middle distance. So I just bring up a few of the middle distance highlights to suit.


I continue doing this adjusting the lights against the lights until I am satisfied that everything is in balance and working well together.


Finally we arrive at the finished product. Not a bad little demo painting and a good one for you to have a go at and master a lot of the key landscape painting principles.

You can watch the episode from Learn To Paint TV here – Click Here To Watch Episode. To download the full length version of this project in high definition follow this link and look for Episode 2 – Follow This Link To Download


New Episode of Learn To Paint TV


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Friends … I’m excited about this weeks episode of Learn To Paint TV.

This week we are painting an old cottage I came across when Sue and I were walking back from Giverny (the home of Monet)

Please like, share and comment if you enjoyed the episode.

Learn to Paint Club members … this weeks FULL episode of ‘Near Giverny’ is now in the Learn To Paint Club members are. Simply log in here

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Acrylic Painting Lesson Step By Step

Acrylic Painting Lesson Step By Step

In this acrylic painting lesson you will see the step by step process of creating a landscape painting from a photo. The photo is of an old fruit shack in Mapleton in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.

This video is a preview video of one of the full painting projects now available in the Learn To Paint Club. To access the full painting project click this link:

Get Access To The Full Painting Project

Next month in the Learn To Paint Club we are having an Impressionist month so we will be doing projects in the styles of Monet, Cezanne, and a mystery impressionist. It will be a lot of fun so come and join us.

Creating Harmony In Paintings – Part 1

In this three part series I want to discuss with you some ideas on how to create greater harmony in your paintings.

Harmony is important in any painting as it holds the viewers interests for longer. Good harmony means that all of the elements in a painting look like they belong together. When a painting lacks harmony and unity you intuitively know something is wrong with the painting yet you just can not put your finger on what it is.

Hopefully by the end of this three part article you will have the keys to greater harmony in your painting.

So here are the three things we are going to look at:

1/ Balance

2/ Limited Palette

3/ Integration of Elements

When you apply the lessons in each of these three key areas your paintings will have a greater sense of harmony and unity … in short they will just look right.

So lets talk about Balance first.

Creating Balance In A Painting

When a painting is out of balance then it will not hold the viewer for long.

Balance is created when there is an even weighting of the elements across the painting.

Lets look at some quick sketches as examples:

In the above thumbnail sketch we have a little landscape with a house, background mountain, big cloud and an old tree log all on the left hand side. There is only a small bush on the bottom right hand side. If this was done up as a larger painting with this composition then even though the painting may be executed technically correct it would still not feel right because it is out of balance. Obviously all of the main elements in this painting are on the left hand side with very little to balance it out on the right hand side.

When you are designing your composition think of the old see saw you used to play on as a kid. Right in the middle was the pivot point. If you were on one end of the see saw and you were heavier than the person on the other side then of course your weight would bring your side down. Well your painting, when viewed, will be viewed as a whole. There is an imaginary pivot point half way across your painting. If the elements on one side have more weight then the whole painting will be brought out of balance. Again this is generally not something that people will assess consciously … in fact they probably could not point out this as an error. They will just know something about your painting was just not right.

The good news is it is easy to correct …

In this sketch I have simply added a larger tree on the right hand side to offset the weight of the elements on the left hand side. There would be a lot more harmony in the painting with this counter balance brought into play. What if there was no tree on the right hand side of the scene you are trying to paint? Well this is where you need to use some artistic licence of course and add a tree in.

Let us look at another example of a beach scene.

As you can see in this thumbnail sketch I have a mother and child walking along the beach with the waves coming in. Again the weight is too much on the left hand side. Now if you have learnt anything about basic composition you will know about the rule of thirds. The mother and child here are positioned at the intersection of the third lines yet the painting is out of balance.

Again … it is easy to bring a painting back into balance. In this little sketch I have added in the distant headland and closer foreground rocks on the right hand side. I have also added in a surf live saving flag. Now you probably do not need to add all three of these in to create a greater sense of balance … this is just to demonstrate what you could add in.

The important thing is when you are designing your next painting create a little sketch like these and play around with the positioning of your elements until you get the right balance. This will translate into paintings filled with greater harmony, and viewers who will linger longer when taking a look at your paintings.

Here is a great exercise for you …

Get your last ten paintings you have done and asses each one for the balance. For those that are not in balance ask yourself what can you add in (or take out) to have the painting be in balance.

Next week we will look at your choice of palette and how it effects the harmony of your painting. We will discuss how and why to use a limited palette.


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.

How To Paint A Landscape – Step By Step (Part 2)

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.

If you want to learn more about landscape painting then please take a look at our online courses Painting Landscapes – Level 1 and Painting Landscapes – Level 2.

Leave your comments and questions below and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.