It's High Time for Some Brutal Honesty

14 Oct 2012

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. Having looked at thousands of landscape paintings, and made a few myself, I'll be honest and tell you that only the best of the best landscape art really sticks out in my mind.

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

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.

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. In his newest DVD, Marine Painting: Art of the Wave, Demers shares just how he does this, from the decisions he makes to get a greater authenticity in his work to painting light sensitively.

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--and right now you can get Art of the Wave and so many other great resources from the North Light Shop. I'm thrilled that all our Artist Daily offerings are available at the North Light Shop because it means bigger and better opportunities to find the art instruction and technical guides that are right for you. And here's $10 off to get you started--just enter NEWDIGS at checkout. Enjoy!  


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Comments

KatPaints wrote
on 15 Oct 2012 8:17 PM

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!