How to Create Compelling Visual Paths in a Landscape Painting

It’s hard to come up with a scenario in which a landscape wouldn’t have grass in any season that isn’t winter. Many references will contain grass fields, but won’t provide a visual path. It’s common for artists to devise compositions in which they lead the viewer into the depth of the painting. The immediate foreground is usually the standard for the starting point and the background is the finish line. Visual paths should not rush the viewer in; rather, they should take him or her for a slow, visual stroll. Here are some pointers on how to make grass foregrounds into exciting visual paths so you, the artist, can usher in your viewer to explore your painting. (Editor’s note: don’t miss this special offer: The Landscape Painting Essentials with Johannes Vloothuis Ultimate Collection is newly available. It includes four DVDs covering acrylic, oil, watercolor, and pastel painting, plus Vloothuis’s accompanying book and a palette!

Landscape Painting Tutorial

Here are some methods you can generally rely on to achieve this:
• Create a stepping stone effect with rocks or patches of snow
• Add wild flowers or bushes in a pattern
• Organize a subtle visual path by opening a dirt or gravel road
• Add a stream or river
• Add puddles

Landscape painting tutorial, photo reference

In this photo (above) we see a grass field that shows no visual movement. The viewer would need to mentally pole vault to get to the middle ground. If we don’t include a visual path in the painted rendition, the final painting may lack a sense of visual movement.


Landscape painting tutorial, painting grass

The original scene for this painting (above) didn’t have the dirt path. I used my artistic license and created one. I try to combine more than one way to lead the viewer in. I interrupted the path only to resume the visual movement by the lines formed by the rocks, strategically placing them to create a connect-the-dots movement.


How to paint grass in a landscape painting
The yellow flowers in this landscape painting (above) also create a connect-the-dots visual path.


Landscape painting tutorial with Johannes Vloothuis
A visual path works best when there is an “S” movement. The stream in this painting (above) follows this design. The snow against the dry grass breaks the monotony of the field.


Free landscape painting tutorial

I used a grass path to interrupt a solid wall of sage brushes (above). The grass opening takes the viewer into the depth of the painting.

To learn more about visual paths and how to move the viewer’s eye you can find “The Complete Essentials of Painting Grass and Snow” and other video courses Northlight has also just released a new eBook written by Johannes, “Landscape Painting Essentials.”

Johannes Vloothuis is a regular contributor at and teaches online art classes with WetCanvas Live. To reach Vloothuis for these classes and to acquire teaching materials visit Come back soon for his next blog post with more tips on how to paint.

Bonus: Enter your email below for a FREE downloadable reference photo by Johannes Vloothuis when you sign up for the
Artists Network newsletter!

You may also like these articles: