Bring Together the Outdoors and Indoors In Your Landscape Paintings

Distant Echo Nocturne by Alice Dalton Brown, 2009, oil painting on canvas, 52"x30".
Distant Echo Nocturne
by Alice Dalton Brown,
2009, oil painting on canvas, 52″x30″.

Whether I’m landscape painting or painting interiors, I’m always drawn to the curious, in-between places where the outdoors and indoors meet. This could be an ivy-smothered barn that almost looks like it is disappearing into the landscape, or an ocean view from an open window. The places where architecture and the natural world collide make a composition eye-catching and compelling because they integrate elements that we usually think of as distinct and separate. Bringing them together creates a tension that some of the landscape paintings I like best have in common.

Contemporary realist painter Alice Dalton Brown is a pro at finding and painting this kind of composition. She’ll paint an exterior view of a house with a hint of shrubs and grass against an open door casting a shadow on the wall. I’m instantly transported to this dual space—where the cool, dim interior of the house and the warm, summertime atmosphere of the landscape meet right at the door.

Ohio Shed by Alice Dalton Brown, 1978, oil painting on canvas, 30x48”.
Ohio Shed by Alice Dalton Brown,
1978, oil painting on canvas, 30×48”.

Brown also creates mesmerizing views of the ocean and sea from the vantage point of a window or doorway that make the viewer feel like he or she is all but floating in a house that is right on the edge of surging waters. But Brown doesn’t need much to achieve this effect. She paints a window frame or even just a curtain as the indicators that you are inside a house. The outdoors are brought in to the painting through the view out the window and through the way the curtain is manipulated so that it looks like a breeze is blowing. The sunlight seems white hot, and the water is an unbelievable deep blue, but the interior spots that Brown creates are equally inviting because they offer shade and relative coolness.

Aegean by Alice Dalton Brown, 2008, oil painting on canvas, 48x48”.
Aegean by Alice Dalton Brown,
2008, oil painting on canvas, 48×48”.

Landscape art doesn’t just have to be about the natural world. Signs of a human presence, if subtle, can be incorporated in interesting ways, like in Brown’s paintings. But what allows Brown to succeed in her works is a strong attention to detail and command of her chosen medium. When she paints with oil on canvas, she manipulates the pigments in such a way that the fine weave of a curtain, its seams, and how it moves in the breeze are all convincingly reproduced. The foundations of these successes are Brown’s plein air studies and photo collages. The former are especially worthwhile because they allow the artist to see and paint almost simultaneously. There’s no hesitation or deliberation—she just does it.

That surety is something I strive for every time I paint a landscape painting, which is a challenge considering all that you have to consider when painting outdoor scenes. I am always looking to improve my skills and that’s why I am so thrilled about the upcoming Paint Along with Johannes Vloothuis. This will be a great place to start if you are looking to gain confidence in your abilities to paint. In this online workshop, you’ll learn how to improve your painting at the side of instructor known for his skills and ability as he paints in a series of live demos, right in front of you via your computer screen. Hope you enjoy it as much as I will!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

2 thoughts on “Bring Together the Outdoors and Indoors In Your Landscape Paintings

  1. Dear Ms. Jordan

    I have tried to upload some paintings on the member gallery site, but it will not accept a photo from my iPad or a jpeg. What will it accept? Thank you for a nice site!
    I can send you a picture from your site that shows the problem if you tell me where to send the image.
    Sincerely,
    M. Justina

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