It's Not About Finding the Perfect Spot

Landscape painting isn't about finding the perfect spot and turning it into a beautiful painting. It's about finding a spot and turning what you see into a beautiful composition by being selective.

Two possible compositions for a landscape painting: one inspiring and the other decidedly not.
Two possible compositions for a landscape painting: one inspiring and the other decidedly not.

I've chosen these photos as an extreme example to show what I mean, how it depends on what you choose to see, rather than simply taking in everything that's in front of you. It's the view from the little landing at the top of the outside stairs at Skyeworks Gallery, where I've been known to sit with my sketchbook and watercolors when I'm on gallery duty and it's quiet. If I stand up, the view is dominated by the tarred carpark and modern warehouse to the side of the old mill building I'm in. If I sit down, I no longer see this, only the green hills dotted with white houses and the sky above. (While some artists do great work with urban scenery, including Isle of Skye printmaker Emma Noble, I prefer not to!)

So once I've narrowed my focus, made a selection from the overall landscape, the next step will be to decide how much of this I'll include in my landscape painting. Might it be a long and narrow composition or a slice out of it, a rectangle or square? There won't be much detail, because what I'm seeing isn't detail but coloured shapes of varying size. (I've got good long-distance vision, but I'm kidding myself if I think I can make out windows in the distance houses, for instance.) It'll be a painterly piece, a sense of the overall feeling of the landscape, not depicting individual branches on trees or tiles on a roof.

First overall washes of color, then smaller mark making, most likely including some overworking with watercolor pencil and some splattering. Layers to give that sense of differences in color and tone I see, but without specifics.

What's the most unlikely spot you've found a great composition in? Leave a comment and let me know.

— Marion

Related Posts:


The Artist's Life Blog

3 thoughts on “It's Not About Finding the Perfect Spot

  1. Hi Marion,
    Its a very informative article. If i had to paint a landscape from these pictures, i will chose top left hand corner of the second picture , remove the green truck and bring the cloud (reduced in size)from picture one.
    I have found most of the painting inspiring spots while traveling in a bus. And love to shoot the clouds from my roof top.

    Aarti Sharma

  2. @aarthieeksharma There are all sorts of possibilities from this spot! But isn’t that so often the case, the more you contemplate one location the more options you see!

  3. I would also try drawing / painting the chair on the landing, with all the materials on it. The texture of the wall and the blue sky above (cloud included!) all make for an interesting composition!