Landscape Painting Basics
Landscape artists are truly blessed. Their subject matter is inspiring, their studios are some of the most beautiful natural wonders around the world, and they take as their ultimate goal that of painting light. What could be more inspiring? But landscape art is not easy, though enjoyable. A landscape artist at the top of their game has learned how to paint landscapes through much rigorous study—choosing compositions that give a sense of place as well as capturing changing weather patterns and ephemeral light. But a finished landscape oil painting—when done well—has the power to almost transport its viewer, and that is why a landscape artist will always continue to create paintings of landscapes.
Plein air is a popular technique for painting landscapes because it helps the artist be present – not just physically, but mentally. That’s why artist Bob Bohler, who also happens to be an accomplished musician, advises artists to never wear headphones while painting en plein air. “I couldn’t hear that dog splashing in the water or those grasshoppers snapping their wings if I were wearing headphones,” he points out.
But for those who work in the studio, great landscape painting is still possible. Use a photo reference and a recording of the sound on location to inspire you. However, Bohler prefers to paint outdoors. “It’s natural—everybody starts out using photo reference. But you get the best possible information in front of you when you paint plein air,” he comments. “Once you can break away from using a photo, you are free. You feel like a bird leaving its nest.”
Top landscape painting artists
Asher B Durand: This mid-19th century artist is well-known for engraving the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He was also a member of the Hudson River School and wrote a renowned book, Letters on Landscape Painting.
Claude Monet: A list of landscape painters would be incomplete without Monet’s name. The impressionist master became a household name for his impressive work with oils, which he usually painted en plein air.
Clyde Aspevig: Aspevig is a contemporary artist who works in oil, and has been critically acclaimed with exhibitions across the world. He is somewhat of a realist, saying: “I try to paint the landscape the way the human eye sees. I do not really paint every detail, even though it may appear that way. Instead I concentrate on the overall summary of shapes and silhouettes as they appear against the light. The detail comes from textures and the layering of paint, which create effects or abstract shapes that explain detail.”