Monday, 29 November 2010

My Landscape Paintings Lack Drama or Depth

The landscape artist may feel in awe of a particular landscape scene, but the drama fails to convey to the oil painting; mountains look flat, waterfalls resemble a trickle and mighty firs look more like Bonsai trees. How can the artist produce a landscape painting with depth and drama?

Problems with Dramatic Landscape Art

Dramatic Landscape Art
Rachel Shirley
The following culprits are often to blame for a landscape painting that looks rather pedestrian rather than wild or dramatic:

Painting from memory elements that are missing from visual resources. This temptation may be borne from using mountains as a backdrop or a tree to conceal a mistake. Working from memory is the enemy of realism and may rob all drama from the painting.

Sitting too close to a painting, misleading the artist on the importance of each brush mark as it is viewed close up. Fine detail may not be so visible from ten feet away, resulting in a painting filled with insipid brush marks that lack punch or expression.

Painting onto a white canvas which may also mislead the artist to the true tonal value of each colour mixture, as even pale ones will appear dark. The result is a landscape painting that looks washed out.

Over-mixing the paint and applying it onto the artwork rather like one would to emulsion a wall. Similarly, anguishing over every brushstroke and smoothing over imperfections. The result is a painting that looks overworked and lifeless.

How to Paint a Dramatic Landscape

Adding a sense of depth and drama to a landscape painting is mostly dependent upon the visual resources at hand, whether this is photos or sketches. Painting from memory must be avoided, or it will spoil the effect. The following tips will help create a landscape that has depth and drama.

Fine Art Photography

If panorama is desired, select an image that contains distant objects and near objects. The contrast in proximity will enhance the sense of distance, whether the scene depicts a Scottish Highland or Yellowstone Park. Using wide angled photography provides further opportunities for exploring big skies and vistas adding a real sense of space. Be aware of the horizon line. A high horizon will enhance the land; a low horizon will enhance the sky.

Furthermore, don’t clutter the landscape with lots of elements. Less can often be more when it comes to creating a grand scale.

Look for and create contrasts within the landscape scene: Big and small; sunlight and shadow or near and far. A small cottage will make a thundering waterfall appear more impressive. A lone poplar set against distant mountains will create a chasm effect. A streak of sunlight hitting a snow cap against a sombre scene will create a tonal focal point.

Painting Dramatic Skies

Landscape Perspective
Rachel Shirley
Beware of empty skies that exhibit a lacklustre blue or grey. If a photograph features such a sky, another sky can be substituted so long as the lighting, angle and the time of day are consistent. Great skies to use might be altocumulus, anvil clouds or frontal cirrus. Further drama can be added if clouds are obliquely lit by a low sun, bringing bizarre colours and textures.

An ordinary landscape can be transformed by different weather conditions. Castlerigg Stone Circle in Cumbria, for instance has twice the drama when snow-caps festoon the surrounding mountains. Consider returning to the same setting another day or time of year.

How to Create a Spacious Landscape

Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light & Color
Tips for Landscape Art
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A landscape even when empty adheres to the rules of perspective which can be used to add depth to a painting. Imagine for instance, that the landscape is the floor and the sky is the ceiling to a huge room. If both exhibited a grid, the squares would appear to flatten and get smaller with distance until the grid converges to a vanishing point. Clouds and grass echo this pattern, in that each formation would appear to flatten and get smaller.

This sense of distance can be further enhanced with tonal recession. Generally speaking, objects will appear more muted and faint with distance, particularly during misty weather. Look out for unlikely colours. Even a murky day may contain specks of crimsons and violets.
Painting Techniques for Dramatic Art

Stand back from the painting to prevent working too close up. Working on a toned ground as opposed to a white surface will help the artist judge tones more accurately. I endeavour to use all tonal values from pale to very dark within my landscapes. Don’t be afraid to use paint neat from the tube and to contrast art techniques, from impasto skies to blending mists. Palette knives, old combs or sponges are great for creating a diversity of marks for a dramatic landscape. Lastly, don’t fret over every imperfection. Allow streaks of colour and brush marks to remain. Doing so will retain freshness, vibrancy and energy to the painting.

Links on Landscape Painting

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