5 Tips for Maximizing Land, Sea and Sky That Start with a Bit of Quirk
When you paint a place, it is so exciting to be able to paint it the way you actually see it — and the way you want others to see it. To embed a mood and personality of your choice into the landscape so it becomes unique to you as the artist? Talk about empowering. Artist and instructor Melanie Vote does just that and inspired the five landscape painting tips I share here. One of them being if you see a “diva” tree, you paint it! Read on!
Take note of how fearlessly and sometimes humorously Vote approaches the landscape, and how she puts a little bit of herself in each work. That’s a good luck charm for any painting you call done — seeing a little bit of yourself there too!
#1 Add Playfulness and Quirk
There is no “diva” species of tree or shrub. I checked. But when Melanie spent two weeks in the Grand Canyon, backpacking out and plein air painting, that’s exactly what she found. She saw a tree with so much personality — bent trunk looking like a cocked hip and limbs that almost seemed to snap at you with sass — amidst a forest of trees that were all pretty standard.
It ignited Melanie’s sense of curiosity and fun. Melanie would say don’t ignore what you see and the way you see when you are landscape painting. Seek the humor and a bit of quirk. Find the things you see that no one else would. It could be the start of an awesome painting full of personality.
#2 Get Out There
Melanie is an instructor who definitely teaches many of the foundations of landscape painting that artists may never have actually been taught like palette set-up, color mixing and how to draw shadows with paint, as well as more intuitive approaches for unifying a painting and making it meaningful.
But the basis of all Melanie’s teaching is putting value on actually getting outdoors. You may not finish a painting in the outdoors, but you want to start there. That is where all your inspiration will come from. That’s where all your observations on color start. That is how you will see trees and hills and sky integrating visually–so you can do the same at your easel.
So whether it is for 15 minutes or for three hours, be sure you start with getting out there and soaking up the landscape with all your senses.
#3 Be a Magpie
That means you get to hoard, at least when it comes to reference images. Melanie collects and weaves together many different places and objects for any one artwork. She synthesizes all of this visual information and makes a whole out of many different parts.
That means if you are painting a landscape or using a photo that has something you love in it — take it and leave the rest. You are supposed to be a painterly magpie, gravitating toward the shine objects, metaphorically-speaking, and bringing them back to your nest or, in this case, your painting.
#4 You Don’t Have to Imagine
For many of us, our imaginations are overachievers but we can’t always translate that to paper or canvas. That’s OK! Melanie is a great believer in understanding that painting from the imagination takes time.
In the meantime, according to Melanie, follow in the footsteps of the greats and go outside, take photos of the places that inspire you, make sketches, go into the studio, and go back outside. Let your eyes, not your imagination, carry you through completing a work until your imagination’s follow-through kicks in gear.
What it comes down to is that you don’t need a great imagination to make great paintings. Leave the inspirations to the actual land, light and sky you see.
#5 Sketch Mostly
There is a quality to Melanie’s work that is so fresh and alive it is like you could reach out and touch wet paint. That is an exciting prospect to imitate as an artist.
That comes from Melanie’s emphasis on sketching the landscape as opposed to setting yourself up to create a full-blown painting, likely faltering half-way through if you are like me, and then getting something haphazard out of the whole session.
Instead of setting yourself up for that kind of failure, make tons of sketches like Melanie does. Paint a half-dozen small sketches that might come together for something down the line. But they also exist as exciting pieces of art all on their own. And the sketch quality of them underlines how alive and in-the-moment expressive they are.
Make It Real! Landscape Painting and Sketching
See where landscape can take you at the Artistsnetwork Retreat to Tuscany. We will get you in tune with what you want to express through landscape painting and just how you want to do it. Join us for this artistic adventure!
And for landscape pastel painting explorations that are available for you right now, the video download from Liz Haywood-Sullivan on one of the most crucial aspects of spring and summer landscape painting–mixing shades of green. Download your copy of Paint Realistic Landscapes in Pastel: Mixing Greens now.