Landscape Painting Tutorial
Spring is in the air!
With the warm weather and everything in bloom, there’s no better time to do some landscape painting studies. Whether or not you’ve done landscape art before, you’ll find these studies really satisfying.
Landscape is a great subject for beginners learning to paint, as well as for more advanced students of painting.
In this art lesson, I will show you how to do simple landscape painting studies from photographs, but keep in mind the same principles apply to working plein air. If you feel like, take your art materials outside and enjoy painting in the sunshine!
When choosing a photo or scene of a landscape to work from, make sure that there’s a clear pattern of light and shadow, as this will give form to your painting. Identify which direction the light is coming from. Avoid taking photographs or working at midday when the sun is directly above and there are no shadows.
In the examples below I’m working fairly small on 8”x10” canvas boards. I’m using oil paint, but feel free to use either oil or acrylic paint. Both work equally well.
Important tips to keep in mind while painting:
- Keep it simple! Look for the general shapes and eliminate small details. Don’t fuss. Working with a large brush will help you stick to the broad shapes.
- Squint! This will help to identify areas of light and shadow, see values differences, and simplify what you see.
- Always work from dark to light! Block in the dark areas first, then your mid-tones, and finish with your lights on top.
Landscape Painting Lesson #1:
Step 1: Start with a basic sketch, using paint diluted with a bit of odorless solvent (if using oils, otherwise use water for acrylics). Keep it really simple and loose – just an indication of the general shapes.
Step 2: Block in your dark shapes. Mix up a color and use a medium (if using oils) to get the paint flowing. Look for the shadow areas and paint these in loosely. Use direction brushstrokes that follow the form of what you’re painting.
Step 3: Work in the mid-tones. Don’t be afraid to cut into your dark areas a bit. Put the paint down with clean strokes. Don’t go over the same area several times, but try to get it the first time and leave it. This will keep the paint looking fresh and not muddy.
Step 4: Add your lights and highlights. Paint on your lightest areas.
Step 5: Add in the ground plane. Load your brush up with paint and sweep it across in a loose gesture.
Step 6: Paint in the sky, shaping the tree line and allowing the edges to blend. Add the finishing touches.
Landscape Painting Lesson #2
A fun alternative is to do the same thing, but using a colored ground. This means painting your canvas or board with an initial color (I use acrylic paint for this – just make sure it’s dry before you start painting). Usually I go with a warm color for landscape, but experiment! You can leave bits of the ground color showing through at the end. It adds a nice little sparkle. For the landscape painting below I’ve used cadmium red light.
A big thanks to Heather Sayeau (an amazing teacher and wonderful painter) for the landscape photographs used as the references for these studies.