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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Simplifying a Complicated Landscape

'The Way Through the Woods'           9x12           pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $165
 This is another landscape that I have been wanting to paint. But it was too complicated. I avoided it. Every time I leafed through my stacks of photos it would call to me. But I put it aside. Too many trees and much too busy. Today I decided that it was high time to paint it. All I really needed to do was simplify it. Simple right?

Well it turns out that it wasn't as complicated as I thought. All I really needed to do was look at the big picture. Instead of counting every tree trunk, branch and twig and instead of painting every individual leaf I looked at these things as simplified shapes. I painted with the side of my pastel for as long as I could so that I could make broad flat strokes.

I began the painting on a piece of Wallis seconds (I still have a stash) I used hard pastels to block in the simple shapes that made up my forest scene. I Indicated the darkest shapes of the tree trunks, the lightest shapes which was the peeks of sky and the large areas of fall foliage and grass with some yellow and green. I rubbed in this layer with a piece of pipe insulation foam. This step gave me an immediate simplified roadmap to follow. Just seeing all of the details as simple shapes helped me get stated on what had been a daunting reference.

Blocking in the big shapes
Just think of your block-in or first layers of the painting as a flattened simplified collection of related shapes. It is almost as if I took my finished painting and put it thorough a machine that squeezed out the details and left me with simple flattened shapes.

Once I had this simple block-in it was much easier to gradually add smaller and smaller marks on top of the flat shapes. These smaller marks of different colors and values allowed me to have control over the level of detail I wanted.

At the halfway point
I could have added more leaves and branches and twigs but I wanted to leave something to the viewer's imagination. I wanted the viewer to fill in the blanks. Starting flat and simple was the key!


Holly Knott said...

That's truly lovely! Could you post a photo of your reference pic so we can see how you simplified it?

Marlene McNew said...


LisaDenise said...

I love this one so much - I just want to put on my boots and hike right through that opening!

Steve Morales said...

Yes I too would like to see the photo. This is one of your best pieces! Terry Ludwig set again?

Karen said...

Thank you!!! I appreciate the comments/. I have to locate the original photo file in my mess of 70,000 photos! I printed it out awhile ago. I'll share in an upcoming post.Thanks again!