Wrestling with landscape

Mallee dunes

Mallee dunes

I have decided to focus on getting more skill up around landscapes. I’ve worked out some of my problems in how I’ve been approaching this genera. This one was one of my more successful completed paintings recently – I was trying to replicate the look of one of the paintings I did a few years ago that I really liked, to try and figure out what went so right with that painting. I think this one is nearly as successful. For the first time I’m satisfied that I ‘got’ the eucalyptus in the distance, too. Those trees are so easy to turn into blobs on sticks!

I worked out that I have been thinking that it should be easier to do a landscape than a portrait. So I have usually spent less time on them than I would a portrait, with the result that I’ve rushed the painting – and I resent having to work on it again, cause it should be FINISHED dammit. It’s a very lazy approach and I didn’t know I was doing it till I caught myself at it. Landscape to me was always this boring thing that other people liked – and in fact I still do find a lot of them very very dull indeed. And sometimes the process is dull. It’s like when you do a jigsaw and you do the faces and figures first before the background. I considered Landscape to be the background so my attempts were half-hearted.

It’s very easy to paint a bad landscape! I went op shopping the other day – the place is full of dreadful ones!

So I have stepped back from this unhelpful thought and am treating them the same way I worked out how to do the fur here on the queen’s robe: lots of coming back to it and experimenting until it looked how I wanted it too – this took AGES to work out but now I know how to do fur. LOTS OF DABBING:


Landscape is lots of problem solving. Colour, perspective, hard and soft edges, I’m starting to get my eye in. There are tricks one has to learn and I’m reading lots of ‘how tos’ and practicing incorporating the nuggets of information into my paintings. Getting there. Slow but sure.

The reality is that a good landscape takes the same things that any other picture takes: skill, planning, and constant adjustments until it’s ‘right’.   The other problem I have is : when do I know it’s Right? I’m not really into photo realism, I want it to look like art. There are some styles I very much admire but I don’t want to paint like – so what is my landscape style? I think all my stuff kind of looks similar so I do have a distinct style – I can’t tell you what it is though.  I don’t paint toward that, I end up with it. Does this make sense to anyone!   So if I don’t know how it’s going to look while I’m doing it, then how do I know when I’ve finished it?

A portrait is easier in this sense too cause you don’t need to worry about perspective or whether to put a nose into the painting or not – but with a landscape you can move stuff around all the time and it’s really up to the artist. I’ve also I guess found this slightly dishonest and felt bad about doing this – but I need to snap out of that thinking!

Then there is the ‘fresh pair of eyes’ issue. I have to put things aside and come back to them, that’s when i see all the mistakes or things that don’t look right.  I’ve currently got about 4 landscapes on the go and they are all very different to the others.

The other night I went through my box of holiday photos from places I’ve been and there are quite a few really good photos in there of very remarkable places I’ve been. So I have some more source material to work on and problem solve some more! I’m going to be quite busy I think in the coming months!