There is something quite magical about painting outdoors. I feel comfortably secluded with nature having an almost spiritual connection when I paint a landscape. Landscape painting is a passion of mine. I would like to share some tips and techniques that I have become accustomed to using over the years.
My first bit of advice – try not to get overwhelmed by the scene in front of you. I recall when I first began painting landscapes I tried to copy everything exactly as I saw it. I tried to squeeze in every detail, paint every leaf, branch, and blade of grass. You will go crazy approaching a landscape this way. Try and paint your own impression of what you see and not a copy of it. Squint your eyes and see the landscape as a series of shapes, lights and darks, as opposed to seeing every detail. You can accomplish some amazing things that you never thought were inside, if you just relax, and let the painter inside come to the surface.
Painting on location is certainly a beautiful experience, but remember that you have to paint quite fast as the lighting will change quickly. I usually begin my paintings using a larger brush. This prevents me from focusing on the details too much and enables me to establish the major components of the painting. I also take a few shots of the scene with a digital camera. In the event that I am unable to capture the scene in one sitting, I now have a reference photo to complete the painting in my studio.
Try toning your canvas with acrylic paint first before applying your oil paint. I find starting a landscape with toned ground makes it easier to judge values. You can also let some of that underpainting show through in some areas of your painting for an interesting effect.
Creating the illusion of depth or distance in your paintings can be accomplished using different techniques. You can adjust your colors by making them cooler and less intense for the distant objects, warmer and more intense for closer objects. Reduce the size of objects as they recede. You can also take away details and sharp edges to make objects appear more distant.
You should have a focal point, otherwise known as “center of interest” in your painting. All other objects in your painting should not compete with your focal point and should serve to draw the viewer to your center of interest.
Instead of jumping right for the paint, use a pencil and paper instead. Drawing is great practice. When I am drawing, I am more relaxed and intimate with the scene. I am training myself to see the various lights and darks of the scene without the use of color.
Bring only those items that you know you will need and use. When you focus too much of your time on lugging around unwanted materials, it takes away from the enjoyment of what you came there to do, paint!
Painting clouds appears to be one of the bigger challenges for beginners; I know it was for me. What I mentioned in the beginning about trying not to paint every detail applies to clouds as well. Clouds are three-dimensional objects made up of water and ice particles that reflect light so the color of your clouds will vary depending on the weather and lighting conditions. Remember general perspective rules when painting clouds. Clouds closer to you will generally be more detailed. As they recede into the distance they begin to lose detail and get smaller in size. Pay special attention to the edges of the clouds as sharp edges advance while smooth edges recede.
Make your composition as interesting as possible by balancing positive and negative space in your painting. The negative space surrounds the positive space and is equally important. Do not neglect the negative space, but at the same time, do not let it dominate your composition.
I hope this article on landscape painting tips was helpful. Just relax, let go and most importantly enjoy yourself!