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Friday, October 31, 2014

The Importance of Knowing Your Landscapes

'Distant Red'              11x14              pastel           ©Karen Margulis
painting available $145
Sometimes the location matters. Sometimes getting the details correct matter.  Details such as the type of trees. The color of the water. The type of clouds and sky colors. Sometimes it is important to get these details right.  It doesn't always matter. If I just want to express a mood or feeling about the landscape, details aren't critical. But if I want my landscapes to be authentic then it is best if I pay attention to the details.

Take today's landscape. It is an autumn scene from New Jersey around the Edwin B Forsythe Wildlife Preserve. The grasses were wonderful shades of gold and the distant trees were showing signs of color. It was a wonderful time of year for enjoying the wetlands.....but it was New Jersey.....not the South Carolina Low Country.

My thumbnail and working plan

This was important to my collector. She came to my studio to make a purchase. (it is always nice to meet and share my work in person)  She was interested in a marsh landscape and loved the painting  on my easel...this NJ Marsh.  She knew it wasn't the LowCountry though and it wouldn't work for her. How did she know?  She loved the marsh and water but knew that the red trees didn't look like her marsh. They weren't LowCountry trees!

There is a lesson in this exchange. It is fun to make up a landscape or combine references but to be authentic it is important to KNOW your landscapes....know your trees and water and skies.  Some viewers won't care but many will know and will care.  My collector did find a Lowcountry marsh that spoke to her and my NJ Marsh will wait for another chance.

Painting Notes: Uart paper 400 grit with a 4 value underpainting using warm colors, rubbed in with pipe foam.


robertsloan2art said...

This is beautiful and I can think of subjects where I'd need to treat something in it like a portrait. Landmarks demand a portrait approach, there might be elements you can't change. This is a good guide to those places where I could make changes but have to identify what makes the place unique and special.

I've done lake scenes from Canada and a friend says "I've seen that, it's Lake Tahoe!" Done one of an East Coast creek and someone says "I love that place in Oregon, my dad took me fishing there." That's cool and says the painting really works.

Without a landmark, being able to capture the place for itself and have people see it exactly as it is would be awesome. Thanks for these tips on watching for tree shapes and types. Those distinguish where it is regionally sometimes.

It's also something to watch when making up scenes, putting Western cottonwoods together with Southern live oaks in the same painting may not be plausible.

Roxanne Steed said...

So true! Even though there are marshes all the way up the Atlantic coast, where I grew up in FL is very different from each place I've lived or visited all the rest of the way up the coast (FL, GA, SC, VA, CT, and Maine). So many scrub palmettos & live oak all the way up to Charleston...I miss that stuff. But now that I'm living in CT, the trees are quite different here. Been here a while now, & I'm still learning these varieties.