Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Feedback on A Beginner’s First Ever Landscape Painting

Getting a balanced critique can help the beginner develop in landscape painting, and to this end, the focus of this article is a landscape painting by Alison Lindsay. A first ever landscape sketch is a big step and could pave the way for exploration in oils. Here, I offer balanced feedback for the beginner.

A First Landscape Painting: The Strengths

Courtesy of Alison Lindsay
Having taught art, have seen the difficulty some students have in making that transition into oil painting for the first time. Quite often, students find it hard even to lay that first brush mark. This artist has shown guts in completing a first painting. This is a great achievement in itself.

Here, evidence of an innate eye for atmosphere and potential for finding a personal style can be seen. The mood is one of the painting’s strengths. It’s great to see a landscape painting with equal emphasis upon the sky as the land. A landscape with a wishy-washy or bland sky can look somewhat flat. The clouds have a definite colour bias, being violet, which adds interest. Expressive brush marks lead the eye towards the horizon.

Hue and Tone in Landscape Painting

Here, we can see subtle use of complementary colours. Complementary colours are those that are opposed on the colour wheel, such as violet and yellow, or blue and red. In the same vein, we can see a subtle clash of warm and cool colours: cool violets in the sky against warm rustic tones on the land. Using complementary colours in this way is great for creating focal points throughout the painting and add punch.

Composition in Landscape Painting

The artist might or might not have been aware that the placement of the tree conforms to the rule-of-thirds. Any composition can be seen to be divided into roughly thirds. Place an object where the resultant lines lie, and that object grows in significance, as can be seen in the image below the painting. Using the rule of thirds is a great way of finding pleasing compositions, particularly in landscape painting.

Development in Landscape Painting: Tips on Green Mixes

Quite often the beginner paints what is perceived to be seen but which becomes idealized. This can be seen in certain hues of the tree. Although brown and green will often be seen in trees, they are often more muted than one might expect, or possess unexpected colours. The pigment viridian green can often be overused to express foliage, although this colour might not have been used here.

Green often needs muting in landscape painting. Here, the tone of the tree causes it to advance. Muting with a little blue and white with the colour mixture might help bring it into balance with its surrounding.

Painting Lakes: an Overview

Water is one of the most difficult subject matter to paint in landscapes, particularly reflections. Often the outlines of lakes are undefined without any perceived outline at all, more a meandering of seemingly erratic marks without a definite line. The hue used for the reflections are quite sensitively portrayed, although idealization has sneaked in here. The best way to combat this problem is to get excellent visual resources that leave nothing to the imagination. Sensitive observation will also help. This is not as easy as it sounds. Often my students forget to look and see, not simply paint what is perceived to be there.

Links to the following articles addresses some of the issues with idealization in landscape painting, as well as tips on painting lakes.

A First Landscape Painting: The Conclusion

This painting possess great mood in that equal emphasis is given to the sky as to the land. The clouds provide interest in how the cool violets gently clash against the rustic foreground. The brush marks in the clouds injects energy and expression. The tree is well-placed in the frame, leading the eye into the painting.

Some evidence of idealization is evident in the portrayal of the lake and the colour mixes of the tree. However, lakes are quite difficult to paint. Often my students require extra support in painting reflections. Green mixes also often require sensitive observation. The artist’s greatest achievement is painting that first landscape. This often paves the way for others.

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