Monday, February 9

Learn to Paint by Painting Landscapes

Peace in the Valley
Oil on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
I think you can learn more about how to paint if you start out painting landscapes. This doesn't mean you shouldn't take art classes or workshops or use any other method, such as lessons on DVD, to learn to paint. I'm just saying I think it's one of the best ways to get started and learn how to handle paint.

Learning to paint is not necessarily easy, although it does come more naturally for some than others. But if you start with landscapes first, rather than seascapes (the horizon must be perfect) cityscapes (or structures requiring correct perspective), figuratives, or certainly portraits, then I believe you will learn more and learn more quickly with landscapes.

I say this because painting a landscape is rather forgiving for the beginning painter. That's because all the shapes are natural, meaning if they're off a bit, most won't notice. A tree, a treeline, a shrub, a stream,  a lake, a meadow, a mountain, all have natural shapes; that is they don't have to look like anything other than what they are. There is no wrong shape for a tree; however it does need to be believable, of course. The same thing goes for clouds, they can be almost any natural shape.

As for color, painting a landscape will help you learn about value and color by experimenting with what you see naturally before you. We all go outside, at least sometimes. If you paint en plein air, all the better. You will learn to mix earthtones, all kinds of greens, and all the colors of the skies with just the primaries with maybe an ochre, sienna, or umber thrown in.

It's still a learning experience, and you will have to know a few things going in. This includes where to put foregrounds, mid-grounds, and backgrounds and what atmospheric perspective is.

Again, learning to paint isn't necessarily easy, but landscapes are rather forgiving for the beginner. If I can do it, you can do it. It just takes practice.

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