Landscape Painting

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Landscape painting has a long tradition in many countries but was not always practiced for it's own sake. Many artists, particularly professionals of former ages were often preoccupied with making a sale (naturally) and so were at the whim of their patrons. Great masters of landscape, therefore, are relatively rarer than say, portraitists or fresco painters.

My weakness has always been John Constable (1776-1837), not because I'm English, or because I love the realism of his paintings. I fell for his work when I was seventeen and saw an exhibition of his sketches. I had been aware of his paintings for a few years but it wasn't until I saw the exquisite, gentle, almost breathed onto the paper drawings, that I began to understand his power.

I wandered around the small room for so long the assistant curator decided to come in and watch me. Probably terrified I would steal them. I didn't blame him.

Constable painted large and realistically but his sketches left me with the feel that he was a bit of an impressionist ahead of time. I imagined his hand hovering over the paper, deciding in an instant how he was going to convey the movement of a wind swept beech tree, the turn of a millers head in casual conversation, the skip of a small dog meandering by a stream. I reasoned that this skill would have worked as well with paint.

I began to study his work, which wasn't easy considering his works were well scattered across the world, but I made the effort where possible and studied prints and critiques where I could. It was Constable that showed me if I was going to learn how to draw and paint I was going to have to accept my limitations and embrace the fact that all artists are just people who make marks on paper and do silly things like pushing liquid around on canvas and board with brushes and knives and even fingers. We are trying to fool the eye without conning it.

Constable made whole scenes come alive by understanding that colour and tone are as important as learning how to draw. Take a look at his work up close and you will see deceptively simple daubs of colour, cleverly placed, and glazes slowly built into approximations of Mother Nature's palette. He uses paint often in a purely technical way. He used splashes of red and white where they really had no business being.

Constable knew his landscape paintings would benefit from these odd little placements because of his complete mastery of colour. He knew when to add the complimentary colour, how it would affect the colours around it, how to mute an area of canvas without glazing and many other oil painting techniques.

The first tutorial below is my attempt to show you how to use colour to build scenes using a tonal map as a guide with little actual drawing. You can do it from life, memory or a photograph, whatever suits you, but please don't make any detailed drawings or colour studies. Try it this way. It's an exercise in managing colour you can use later, in more ambitious landsape paintings, where you have solidly built a foundation with drawings and colour studies. Landscape painting is a good place to start for any artist. A great area for learning perspective and many other essentials. Enjoy!

Landscape Painting In Oils

I have to recommend this very good tutorial

also in oils. Link opens in another window.

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