Calling Him a Landscape Painter Would Be a Stretch

18 Oct 2011

Anselm Kiefer is not a landscape painter by any stretch of the imagination, and yet his incredibly powerful work is based in and of the land. Observing his mixed media paintings and sculpture has taught me a lot about what a truly impactful landscape painting can be-and one thing that I realize it doesn't have to be is picture perfect.

Perfection does not equal a powerful or moving piece of art. Perfection can sometimes be arid, lifeless, and a bit boring. Kiefer's works incorporate many time-honored approaches on how to paint and how to create dynamic landscape painting compositions, but he doesn't use beauty as a crutch.

Strong angles: The aspect of Kiefer's work that I puzzle over again and again is how obvious he is about using strong angles, and yet it all seems to slip under the radar once you are actually in front of the work. The lines can be furrows in a barren field, levels of a step pyramid, train tracks, or tree lines, but they all give a forceful sense of movement wherever they appear.

Einschusse by Anselm Kiefer, oil, emulsion, and acrylic with mixed media, 2010.
Einschusse by Anselm Kiefer, oil, emulsion, and acrylic with mixed media.

Color: Kiefer is not one to go wild with color. He tends toward muted pigments, but that doesn't mean they aren't faceted and interesting. A white in his hands can contain blue, grey, and even black, and yet it looks realistic and engaging. And when he does use color, it is like you've stumbled upon something amazing because the colors seem so saturated and jewel-like.


Let the Earth Be Opened and Send Forth a Savior by Anselm Kiefer, mixed media painting.
Let the Earth Be Opened and Send Forth a Savior by Anselm Kiefer, mixed media painting.

Large shapes: Notice that in almost all of Kiefer's paintings, he doesn't go small-ever. He works with large shapes, big forms, and accentuates bold gestures. To me, this shows that the artist has a distilled, focused vision. He's winnowed away all the excess and frippery, and works with what really matters in each art piece.

Osiris and Isis by Anselm Kiefer, mixed media painting.
Osiris and Isis by Anselm Kiefer, mixed media painting.

But no matter how much I admire Kiefer's work, he is not alone in my art "hall of fame." In fact, our Step-by-Step Landscape Painting Instruction eBook features several artists whose works I also can't get enough of. Step-by-Step Landscape Painting Instruction is our newest eBook and is devoted entirely to the power of Mother Nature and how artists and instructors all over the world harness it in their work. I don't have a better starting point for taking all the inspiration from Kiefer and all the rest than by "flipping" through it. I hope it is the same for you!

I've also created a bonus blog of more tips for good landscape paintings based on Kiefer's work for you all! Enjoy!

 


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