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Friday, September 19, 2014

Tip for Suggesting Objects in a Landscape Painting

'Time for Quiet'            11x14           pastel
I used to be a landscape purist. I would not add anything man made to my landscape paintings. No buildings, telephone poles or people. Nothing but the landscape. It wasn't because I was making a stand or felt strongly about being a purist. It was actually because I didn't know how to put man made stuff in my paintings without them looking silly or childish.  It was easier to leave them out!

But then I realized what I was doing wrong.  I was DRAWING these man made things instead of PAINTING them.

They didn't look like they belonged in my painting because they didn't fit in with the rest of my marks. They were too detailed and called attention to themselves.  I didn't really want that to happen because the painting was really about the landscape and not the man made things in them.  This things were supposed to add flavor to the landscape but not dominate it.

close up detail of distant buildings
I discovered a trick for suggesting man made objects rather than rendering them in detail. All it took was a simple change in the way I held my pastel.  I started using the pastel on it's side to make small marks to suggest things rather than using the point of the stick to draw them.

Look at the buildings in the close-up photos. They are just chunky marks made with the side of my pastel. I didn't draw them first. If I did I would have been tempted to color them in and add windows! They are in the distance so we wouldn't see the windows!

Be sure your suggested objects are in scale with the rest of the landscape. You don't want a house to tower over the trees!

More suggested buildings
Painting Notes:  Both marsh paintings are on Canson Mi-Teintes Touch paper with no underpainting. 


robertsloan2art said...

I like the way you suggest buildings in landscapes if they're there, they aren't automatically the focal point but sometimes they are. This technique really works for you.

I am a landscape purist for different reasons. It's emotional. I'm more drawn to landscapes with no people or sense of human habitation. It's because wilderness was always a retreat for me emotionally.

As a kid I can remember road trips going for hours and hours, most of the day without any sign of people other than phone poles and power lines following the road and the road itself. If we stopped anywhere there were always one or two or more directions where I could walk past the parking lot and look out into places that didn't Belong To Someone, weren't someone else's land, were its own land pure.

I used to imagine dragons and elves, Hobbiton around the next turn, magic in the air as soon as I was away from strip malls. Or the Wood Between The Worlds just going on forever. It opened my imagination and I occasionally saw wildlife right up by the road too, that was wonderful!

To my horror, the last two road trips I've taken to move had few and no moments of not seeing buildings. Everything beside the road was someone's yard or parking lot or something. Maybe there is still wilderness if you go far enough from the road but the entire route between Boulder Colorado and the Twin Cities in Minnesota was completely, solidly blanketed by residential neighborhoods, farms and strip malls that came all too frequently. Even the farmland was shrinking compared to the developments.

Something sank and shriveled inside me at that. The country became smaller and more controlled, nothing was free of plastic and poison any more.

Going from Kansas to Arkansas to move, we went through some big parks that only had mile markers and signs and no residences. It was a relief. There was still some breathtaking scenery.

I am disabled and can't really get that far into wilderness without a lot of support, camp gear and vehicle and so on. I'll never be able to hike. But I still like to leave a camp site as though I was never there, taking with me sketches and memories. It's really sad that those vast green spaces, hilly or not, went away before I learned to sketch them. All I have now are memories and sometimes I try to do them in my landscapes.

But this technique is going to be very, very useful in something else - my beloved, beautiful city of San Francisco! Lots of hills covered in little distant blocky buildings. You're right" They're sides and rooftops varying a bit in size and shape but past a certain point doors and windows don't show up! You've given me a way to paint the city's hills - often with little wild places on top where the buildings stop and trees cluster. It's one thing to show the ornaments on a near close focus building that's a focal point, but down the street and up the next hill there's only smaller and smaller little blocks of color and value.

Thanks for a great technique!

ida mae poopsnatch said...

Hi Karen,

I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you including what type of paper you used for each painting shown & whether you did an under painting for it. I get intimidated by under painting sometimes, feeling that my work will suffer immensely if I do not use one. I realize I should practice utilizing them so that I have choices I can make for each project. Still, it is refreshing to simply use a few dry layers on Canson paper if that's what works best. I always get something useful from each one of your posts. Thanks so much.
L&K, MaryB