It’s High Time for Some Brutal Honesty

Memorable Landscape Painting Require Us to Push It

Here it is: If you aren’t going to really push it when you make a landscape painting, it is going to be completely forgettable. I’ve looked at thousands of landscape paintings. I’m sure you have to, and made a few yourself. If we are all honest, we’ll admit that only the best of the best landscape art really stick, right?

Eis by Gerhard Richter, 1981, 70 x 100 cm, oil on canvas.
Eis by Gerhard Richter, 1981, 70 x 100 cm, oil on canvas.

Create Impact

But this doesn’t mean we should all give up on our landscape paintings. Instead, I’m going to refocus on creating impact with each work and seek out landscape artwork to “mimic” or learn from that is compositionally strong, employs unusual coloring, and isn’t merely about recording the hills, valleys, and trees I see. There’s got to be something more.

Stille by Isaac Levitan, 1898, 96 × 110 cm, oil on canvas.
Stille by Isaac Levitan, 1898, 96 × 110 cm, oil on canvas.

And I know it can be done. Look at Gerhard Richter’s snow paintings, which are amazing portrayals of light and have a murky, atmospheric quality that utterly mesmerizes me. Isaac Levitan’s compositions and vantage points are always unusual, and the way he can so subtly vary the texture of the paint on the canvas to reinforce what he is painting is incredible. Emily Carr was fearless about color and about telling a story–not merely recording what she saw–with her landscape art.

Shoreline by Emily Carr, 1936.
Shoreline by Emily Carr, 1936.

Another landscape artist whose work is incredibly impactful is Don Demers. Every painting of his that I’ve seen has a “wow” factor, and Demers works tirelessly to evoke that lively sensation I’m talking about. The conscious decisions he makes give his work greater authenticity and a palpable sense of delicate light.

Morning Shadows by Don Demers, 10 x 12, oil painting.
Morning Shadows by Don Demers, 10 x 12, oil painting.

It’s all there for us to learn. Take these examples or some of your own favorites and really analyze what makes them memorable. That paired with the guidance from resources like Alla Prima Pastel Painting with Richard McKinley allow us to be able to make the memorable work we know we can. Here’s to your unforgettable art!


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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.   

3 thoughts on “It’s High Time for Some Brutal Honesty

  1. Yep Courtney, you hit the nail on the head. No one wants a drab landscape that tries to capture a photographic quality of what you see in front of you. I just returned home after a plein air event out West. What you are saying is pretty much what the judges said. In an area known for National Parks and stunning dramatic landscapes, the best of show was a painting of funky VW vans. Funny and fabulous!

    1. I hope that was clear to the participants. Realism was very much in vogue at one time. If they had an event for depicting vehicles and the best in show was one of the Rocky Mountains, I would check to see what the judges were drinking.