John Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting contains a wealth of suggestions. Contact Mirja by email for a free PDF of general notes. Meanwhile, here are a few of Carlson’s extended ideas:
We must have design in a picture even at the expense of truth. You are using nature for your artistic needs. USELESS DETAIL = BAD PAINTINGS.
There are 4 MAIN VALUES to landscape painting (in average light on an average landscape):
Darkest: verticals such as trees
Second darkest: slopes such as hills
Lightest: the sky
Second Lightest: the flat ground
IMPORTANT 5TH VALUE: Beginners will paint sky too dark because of the perceived lightness of the clouds. The value between the sky and clouds is less than perceived at first. CLOUDS: On a gray day, white clouds are lighter than the sky and a diffuse light comes through. The base of clouds are cooler and lighter in the distance. The white of clouds get a bit warmer and rosier in the distance.
For masses and forms, they need to belong to a half light or half dark — this prevents over modelling. We want varied sizes of masses. Don’t break up masses with mottling. Have 4 to 5 large flat tones (masses) of unequal weight (values). Paint these with poster-like flat planes. Then make them beautiful with local colour — aim for essential masses, then beautify.
Don’t begin with an elaborate drawing, which is constricting and a barrier to great edges. Use a bold, thick outline of masses, then instantly fill masses with approximate colour contrasts but with exact value. Use a full brush, and use medium (for oils) so that the painting will be dry enough in an hour to drag paint overtop.
Cast shadows are usually lighter than the tree that casts it. The colour of shadow is determined by the local colour of the flat plane. Same colour but darker. The blue sky casts a cold light which cools the colour cast of local colour. The shadow is warmest near the tree (less exposed to the blue sky light.)
TREES: When painting trees, don’t paint highlights on them, rather use slight variations of darks and mid-tones. Trees are lighter and cooler nearer to the sky, and darker and warmer nearer (but not at) the ground. The sky holes need to be painted darker than the sky colour.
BE AWARE: Cool colours look darker than they are and warm colours look lighter than they are. Receding shadows in the distance get cooler and lighter. Luminosity is obtained if you paint shadows keeping these concepts in mind, as does proper use of accents within shadows. Don’t paint the shadows too dark. The only real darks in shadows are under stone edges and such. Dark accents are more pronounced in fully lit areas. Note that aerial perspective has a greater effect on darks than mid-tones in a landscape.
The most important things in a painting are Form and Value. Color comes last – like a friend you welcome. (Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot)Mastering Methods