How to paint landscapes

scotland prints

Keen to get started and painting on the canvas or paper.

How to paint landscapes is always a consideration for the landscape painter. There is always some planning to do first. The way that you start is often the stage when a good interesting painting is evolved!

Follow a few simple guide lines from how to paint landscapes and you will soon become a more confident painter.


Mask it-how to paint landscape with Peter Tarrant

The composition of the painting is the key. A few of the landscape painting starting points you should consider before the brush hits the canvas or paper are:-The following applies for painting directly or from a photograph.
Choose to paint a landscape or seascape scene. The way to remove all the "extra" landscape or seascape is mask it off!

If you are outside even with a sketch pad the easy way is, use a view finder. Cut a hole to the same format (rectangle or square) and view the scene you are considering. An empty 35mm slide carrier works well. If you are making the selection from a photographic print just mask off the areas with paper you feel are not important. All successful starter points on How to paint landscapes.

Symmetrical Composition - Note how the image is centre with the light house to the middle of the landscape painting. (focal Point) the clouds even match for weight and similarity

Symmetrical composition Shuna, Loch Linnhie, By Peter Tarrant

There are two types of composition for ways of how to paint a landscape, symmetrical and asymmetrical. Both are correct, however asymmetrical is the one you will be more likely to use.
Symmetrical is formal and calming.

asymmetrical-how to paint landscape by Peter Tarrant in acrylics

Asymmetrical Composition

Asymmetrical way to compose and paint a landscape is a more challenging to both the artist and interesting for the viewer. Achieved by the informal balance of the point of interest along with the contents of the landscape painting.

A landscape painting composition is more likely to be interesting and for the viewer if the composition is Asymmetrical but to be more calm then a Symmetrical composition although not used as often.
For this discussion on how to paint landscapes the Asymmetrical composition is used for How to paint landscapes.

The "One Third Rule" and the "Golden Rectangle" are both methods of creating off centre balance in your composition, possibly the best place to start with developing your composition is with thirds and create your asymmetrical composition.
Once you have read this article as how to paint landscape start by making a few small 2" sketches of your intended composition until you feel confident it is correct.

One thirds rule-how to paint landscape1

Focal point
Place your focal point/ centre of interest at about one third of the canvas both horizontally and vertically, Avoid the horizon being in the centre of your picture.

how to paint landscape sketch

Decide what to put in your picture and what to leave out .Do not clutter your painting with distractions. Painting is like writing " It's not what you say it's what you don't say! In other words often what you don't put in a painting may say more about the main point of interest.

Consider moving some of the elements of the composition to achieve contrast, balance and interest. For example, a white cottage against a light corn field will stand out less than if placed in front of a dark wood.
Do you now see your composition starting to have balance?

Balance is achieved by various means. The position of the focal point of interest in relation to the other elements in the picture and the "values."
If we convert the scene into black and white the shades from black, grey to white determine the image and we can understand the image without colour. How to paint landscape, as a painter if we limit the painting to a few "values" then the painting will improve. If there are too many or too few values the painting will be less effective.
Try a value study in monotone with say or 3 or 4 different values/shades of grey along with black and white is a helpful exercise. When you do start to paint put those values into use with your chosen palette.

This small water colour painting will no doubt appear better when masked either at the top or bottom. see what you think looks a better composition.

This shows all the painted area, note the cottages are sitting about in the centre of the painting. This painting does not have a defined horizon due to the mountain.

how to paint landscape1 by Peter Tarrant

The image cropped as a square

how to paint landscape2 By Peter Tarrant

The sky has been cropped.

how to paint landscape3

The sky left on and cropped at the foot

how to paint landscape4


Notan of Crail Harbour, how to paint landscape

The intensity of the shades determine the balance, contrast, depth or distance but also a pleasing composition can be achieved with the pattern created. This best seen in the use of Notan.

The type painting which will often achieve acclaim has good Notan!

how to paint landscape markers  Notan

The dark shades of the image alone should achieve a pleasing pattern and be well balanced.

To draw your compositions as notan, use a black marker, felt tip pen or even paint black with a brush. I use the "brush" felt tip pens which work well.

Squint your eyes until the image you see is reduced to grey in appearance and sketch the black areas only. When you have finished, question if the image looks balanced, is it pleasing and does it lead you into your painting?

More information about how to paint a landscape and about composition is available both on this site and even more with Richard Robsons video, with lots of discussion on notan and color.

Most Notan Sketches appear abstract but after you have drawn the notan try a few lines or a one grey value.

how to paint landscape-crail1

Distance is painted by reducing the intensity/ value of colour the further away the objects. The tone becomes more blue in the distance. This is known as atmospheric perspective. Objects become smaller the more distant but also lighter and more blue.

But more on that in the next page of How to paint landscape.THAT IS JUST THE BEGINNING OF "STARTING TO PAINT LANDSCAPE"

scotland paintings

Read how to paint landscapes again to be sure before you start.

How to make a stay wet palette

TOP, The Glen Paintings,  Contact Peter.acrylic painting, Painting Gallery

The How To Sketch eBook is a simple guide that gently steers you towards sketching with a confident stroke.