How to Paint Landscapes

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Few themes are more universal for an artist than the beauty of nature, for which landscape scenes are the ideal expression. Landscape painting can be a rewarding experience that brings together the love of nature and the outdoors for people to remember and savor. Whether your favorite scene is the local beach, a rustic barn on an old country road, or a downtown scene on a Saturday afternoon, you'll need to balance color and shade with knowledge of good old-fashioned painting techniques.

Things You'll Need

  • Acrylic or oil paints
  • Canvas
  • Masonite
  • Gesso
  • Paper towels
  • Paint brushes
  • Water, paint thinner, medium
  • Working area or easel
  • Decide the natural inspiration point--are you going to paint an outdoor scene, such as a meadow? Alternatively, working from a photograph or other type of image can offer a good jumping-off point.

  • Get supplies ready. Make sure to have a good selection of oil paints, canvas boards or Masonite with gesso on it. Prepare your painting surfaces, paints and brushes. If you're working outside, get a good painting box, palette and easel that you can transfer with ease.

  • Observe the landscape, either in real life or the picture from which you are painting. Be mindful of the light and setting, as well--whether it will be the middle of the day or dusk in the picture that you are painting. Using a soft pencil, do a light line drawing of where all the relevant items will go, and determine the layout on your canvas or canvas board.

  • Determine the focal point--this is the part of a painting that draws in the eye, which is also known as the centerpiece. Paint the background of your picture first, making sure to incorporate the colors of the sky or background setting that you desire. Use a palette to mix colors, lightening them with white. You should know the basics of colors, and how to mix them.

  • If you're working in oils, now is the time for underpainting. One technique of underpainting in landscapes--as seen on the first picture above--is putting on darker colors, and then wiping away, to leave lighter spaces. This is a good way to paint clouds. With acrylics, start painting shadows in the dark areas for shading. Make sure to leave the light areas free of paint or give them a light paint color. Then, add other shades while working your way up.

  • Paint in flat basics and then move up, adding textures via your paint. Here, of course, you will determine your style--different forms of brush strokes especially visible ones, add character to a painting. Also, explore the possibility of textured surfaces by blotting, crinkling or adding clean sand to the paint. This works best with acrylics.

  • Complete the final details of your painting, making sure that the light is correct, the colors stand as you have chosen and that it represents what you want. Don't forget to sign your painting.

Tips & Warnings

  • Clean your brushes completely after every painting session. Use turpentine on oil brushes, and water for acrylics.
  • Clouds are not just white--make a point of observing them closely, so that you understand their natural color scheme. Make sure to have a large tube of white zinc, to lighten colors and color mix.
  • Thin acrylics with water or special acrylic mediums found in art stores, thinning oils with linseed oil or turpentine.
  • When underpainting, use deep, dark, rich colors. Stay away from black as much as possible.
  • Be mindful of the health aspects of working with turpentine and paint thinners. Make sure that you work in a well-lit, ventilated area.
  • Make sure that you know how to draw before you go into painting, and understand the techniques of shading a picture, and line drawing.
  • When painting outdoors, make sure that you're not trespassing, and working in a safe area.
  • Photo Credit Lisa D. Quinlan-both paintings and picture
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