Old Masters Academy

Landscape Painting: 8 Basic Planning Tips




To learn to paint landscapes is to learn to be effective at planning. The idea is to make all the critical decisions about perspective, composition and even what supplies and tools to pack well before you even think about adding paint to the canvas.

It is an absolute myth that all great painters are just free spirits that only act spontaneously when the mood strikes. Consistently productive professional artists always refine their preparation routines in a way that positively impacts the final results of a painting. Here are 8 tips for successful landscape painting preparation.

1. First, take a walk around the landscape you wish to paint. It can be amazing how a slightly different perspective will reveal one of nature’s compositions that will just knock your socks off. Consider taking a sketch pad or even a digital camera to record your ideas as you walk about.

2. Select the time of day that the painting itself will take place. Picking the ideal time of day may mean investing an entire day starting at sun up and ending at sundown. Again, take photographs every few hours for later comparison. This may seem like a lot of unnecessary trouble but you may be surprised by the unique emotional impact found in the different periods of the day.

3. Decide the season to be represented in the painting.

4. Find a strong center of focus. This is usually an object that compositionally is so strong it demands your attention. All other objects in the painting should lead your eye to this object of focus.

5. Make test sketches before you begin painting. It can be amazing how interesting ideas will flow as you sketch. These same ideas would not necessarily present themselves by just looking at the scene passively. Some artists actually like to sketch the potential subject on the day before painting in order to solidify the composition. This allows them to focus mostly on the color aspect of painting. It is important to use the painting time wisely especially since the sun moves rapidly through out the day which constantly changes the emotional mood of the landscape.

6. Pack tools and supplies wisely. This is another activity that would be wise to do in a leisurely way the day before painting. It would be a shame to ruin the painting by forgetting some critical brush or paint color. Also make sure you include some food ,a first aid kit and some light rain gear. Over time develop a tried and true check list to make this effortless.

7. Consider returning to the same scene several times to paint at different times of day or different seasons to create a series of the same landscape. The continuity of this exercise can be a powerful educational experience.

8. Develop lots of basic landscape painting tricks and skills. Some of these might include learning to paint clouds, water drops, waves and surf, trees, flowers, gardens, lawns, rivers and roads just to name a few. One way to accomplish this is to acquire some of the many excellent painting tutorials available on dvd in stores or conveniently on the internet.

The bottom line is that speed is critical for creating art out of doors. Good attention to planning, organization and developing specific relevant skills will always produce positive results for those that wish to learn to paint landscapes.

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