How to Connect to the Landscape You Paint

4 Jul 2013

Sometimes it is difficult to put aside real-world stresses and tasks when it comes time to pursue our art. To-do lists, family matters, and social obligations crowd in, making it almost impossible to concentrate.

Spring Thunder by Mark Haworth, 2008, oil, 24 x 36.
Spring Thunder by Mark Haworth, 2008, oil painting, 24 x 36.

One of the ways I clear my head is to really sink into my subject matter, spending time on close studies in which detail is key. Even if I don’t exactingly recreate everything that I see in front of me, I still tend to focus really hard, and that helps quiet all the clamoring in my head.

Mary Ann Scott's painting of the rice fields of northern Italy.
Mary Ann Scott's painting of the
rice fields of northern Italy.

Such concentration and close attention to detail can lead to the kind of connection artists need to make their work come alive. Artist Mark Haworth describes the seasons’ changes over the Texas landscape—which inspired his landscape painting Spring Thunder—in such a way that his close awareness of the place is apparent. “In the springtime here in the Texas Hill Country we get magnificent wildflowers—called bluebonnets—that cover the countryside and, from a distance, look like a blanket of blue,” Haworth says. “The sight of these flowers is always the first sure sign of spring, an indication that the thunderstorms earlier in the season washed away the winter grays into life-filled color. In this painting, I captured the first of the bluebonnets’ arrival using a more intense palette than I usually do, in an effort to convey the sense of growth and renewal inherent in spring.”

Tropea Onions by Mary Ann Scott.
Tropea Onions
by Mary Ann Scott.

Botanical artist Mary Ann Scott’s paintings are also an exercise in detail, from views of flower-filled hills of Italian mountainsides to a bushel of Tropea onions whose skins are beautifully rendered in tones of amber, rose, and warm brown.

Scott paints her subjects differently than Haworth, but they both are united by their close study and love of the land. This proves to me that any landscape painting composition or work of art comes alive easily when artists gives themselves permission to notice the details and give their subject matter the attention it is due. For more landscape painting techniques, consider Landscape Painting with Oils: Essential Tips for Plein Air and Studio Painters. Enjoy!

P.S. How do you make time for your art? Comment below and let us know your tips and strategies!

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michmcfad wrote
on 27 Jul 2010 8:52 AM

I make time to work on artwork a little at a time.  When I get home from work, I get busy.  I always make sure something is waiting for me at home...something unfinished.  It's also extremely important for me to set goals.  So, I'll give myself a time frame (like 20 drawings in 20 days).  This way I have a very clear and measurable goal.

Ms. Herbruck wrote
on 8 Jul 2013 11:48 PM

It can be difficult to find time to paint, but I have dedicated a room in my home as a "studio".  I receive news from Artist Daily here on my computer.  I check my calendar in this room and photograph my work here.  I can find inspiration in this room with all of my creative materials in one place.