5 Elements To Improve Your Landscape Paintings: Secrets of A Modern Painter
Secrets of A Modern Painter: 5 Elements To Improve Your Landscape Paintings

5 Elements To Improve Your Landscape Paintings


Get beyond the idea of merely creating an image, your goal should be to get at substance. You are painting a symbol of the Earth and our time on it, a physical planet full of stories - each element in constant struggle against everything around it.

5 Things To Remember To Improve Your Landscape Paintings


1. Weight - If it's a mountain you are painting - PAINT A MOUNTAIN! Mountains are massive, dense, heavy, rugged piles of rock forced through the ground, spreading out, thrusting upwards into the sky. Or a cloud, maybe a puffy white cloud, weightless and floating, or maybe storm clouds rushing by - whatever kinds of clouds, they are affected by wind and filled with moisture, light is trapped within and bouncing off - Mountains Rise, Clouds Float. Feel the weight of whatever you are painting and get it on your canvas. Convey the feeling of gravity.

2. Time - So many landscapes are painted as if every part of it is affected by the same light and temperature. Look at a low horizon and an oncoming storm and, like a story, the changes can be read across the distance, the storm coming, the clouds moving in and covering the distant fields, the sheets of rain, and then the clearing; paint only one and your work is still- with no sense of passing time; include elements of change, tension and release, elements of transition- and we can experience a catharsis in the passing storm.

3. Force - Everything in nature is always vying for space to grow, pushing against one another. One of the most obvious ways to imply force in your paintings is to show how things like trees or water react to the wind (or have been affected in the past.)  Keep in mind the millions of years of growth and change that have affected the place you are painting, or just the storm that passed and stripped half the leaves from the autumn trees, and dead branches from old pines.

4. Wind - How many landscapes have you seen where it looks as if all the trees were one shape and painted to look like they're standing straight up? Maybe you're not a realist, maybe you don't worry about whether or not your trees are pine or fir or aspen or birch, but you want them to feel like trees, and trees being blown by the wind or hit with dramatic light are much more interesting than trees standing still in full daylight. Similarly, show how the wind acts upon clouds and water, or fields, or sand, or whatever else you are painting. Subtle delicate shifts and huge gusts in real life can come one after another - give your viewer a sense of reality no matter what your style, and your paintings will leave their mark.

5. Direction - Every aspect of your painting has or implies direction. Light, wind, color, value, and brushstrokes move the eye and the composition through the work. Balance and oppose the directions to gain power in your counterpoint. See what happens when you your wind moves in contrary motion to your light, when your brushstrokes push against the direction of linear perspective. Get rid of the idea of brushstrokes following form and free up the inherent energy in each shape. Think always about building tension and releasing energy.

Don't just abide by the rules of good design - you have to feel the forces of nature and react to them.


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