How to Simplify a Landscape Painting (full demonstration)

Henry Thoreau said that a lot of our
life is wasted away with details. Instead we should simplify simplify simplify,
and if Thoreau was a painter he would be certainly right about that as well.
Because simplicity is what makes a painting strong and attractive.
Simplicity of shape design and composition of light and dark shapes,
warm and cool color. In this demonstration I’m going to show you how
to take a relatively simple landscape scene and transform it into simple shapes of light and dark and warm and cool color. Following a path of simplicity in your
painting doesn’t make a painting look simple. It makes it open to you to
express yourself through the colors you choose and the arrangement of the shapes.
But come down to it, it has been simplified into shapes of light and dark and warm and cool color. So come along with me as I lead you through this quick
painting to reinforce that idea. So lets dive in. Here’s the basic reference and
I’m going to be focusing on the dark bushes and then the plains of light in
the foreground and behind them to give the painting some strong light dark
contrast. So starting with the dark mass shapes. Just get that composition
in. The horizon line in. And now block them in with some darker color. Use
ultramarine maybe a bit of burnt sienna mixed into it to get your dark block in
shape. Then the shadow pattern is also very important. It’s got a bit of alizarin
crimson into that ultramarine blue. Scrubbing it all in with a bristle brush.
Nothing fancy. Very basic palette of colors.
The distant hill has got to be pushed back with some cooler desaturated
color. And now just blocking in the distant field. Getting in the paths of
light between the dark. Getting in that second layer of dark there with some
ultramarine and a little bit of orange. Makes a lovely dark. Not bringing any
white paint into the shadows and darks so Keep that in mind.
Simplifying the hill in the background with light and dark. You can see a
pattern developing as I put down these shapes. And very descriptive already
of the scene. Carrying on with the second layer. These bushes are going to be sort
of the focal area but also creating a nice counterpoint for the light around
them. Using a big brush here. Number eight bristle brush on a small 10 by 12 panel.
So you can see how the big brush helps to simplify shapes once again. No fiddly
little brush marks, just just big shapes. Putting them down here with some really
thick paint. Just basically lemon yellow, bit of white. Now a bit of orange and yellow to
highlight the side of the bushes where the light is hitting them. So some form
of side light is always very handy to help define shapes and also to throw really nice dark shadows. So shadow pattern in the foreground and
light in between that and the bushes and then light behind the bushes again
leading into the distant hill. Now you’ll notice I’m using thick paint in the
foreground and that is intentional. I want thick juicy paint. Good saturated
color in the foreground to come forward. And in the distant areas that paint will
be thinner and not as saturated. At this stage I’m experimenting with shapes and
color. Just getting it down nice and thick. Laying it over existing layers so
working wet into wet. Provided you are careful with laying
down paint and then lifting your brush off. Wipe your brush clean again, get some more paint on then layer it on again. You’re not going to be mixing into
layers underneath and creating mud. So you can see how the white strip in the
distance does go into the distance because white cools down a color and of
course aerial perspective makes colors appear cooler. So all I’m doing is
working into the shadows there with some blues. Shadow is naturally going to have some blue color in it and I’m just accentuating that a bit more. Just
softening up and cooling down the edges. These foreground shapes I’m being, I
suppose you could say, inspired by the reference. And looking for expressive
color. Good thick distinct shapes. So I’m noticing some warm sort of pinkish earth
tones in the distant hill. Put those in quickly. Working all areas of the
painting. I work in the background then I will take a break, develop the
foreground then the focal area and so on. I don’t try and complete one area at
a time. so pretty much getting a good development of this painting. and I’m not
trying to get into real details. I’m really looking at where I can get a lot
dark contrast doing all the work for me. Notice the strong diagonal in the hill
in the back? That helps to add a bit of energy to
what would otherwise be very horizontal looking painting. Suggestion of
foliage and bushes in the background but I’ve go to break them down again otherwise
they come forward too much. Now getting the little brush in just for a few
suggestions of grass etc. But a few too many so I go over them with some dark
color. Make sure my shadow pattern and darks are still in place. Always look
out for that. Just refining a few of these foreground
shapes so it’s not too – I would say hard-edged. Couple of dark accents make a
difference as well. It’s not always just about adding highlights. Dark accents are
very effective – I just need to get those darks in a little stronger here and
there. So you can see a pretty simple scene but
giving me a lot of leeway for expressive color and a lot of simple shapes. A few
final touch of the real thick juicy paint just to consolidate this
foreground a little more and there we have it. Quite a fun little painting to
do using a simplicity of shape, light and
dark and warm and cool color. Just sign this off and we’ll have a look at the
completed painting. I hope you enjoyed that demonstration
and if you found it useful or found anything interesting with it and want to
take that further go onto my website and look at the painting courses and you’ll
find something that is going to help you. Maybe Learn to Paint With Impact or How
to Loosen Up Your Painting or even an art coaching course with me. I will teach
these concepts in those as well. As always if you could like and subscribe
to this channel I would greatly appreciate it and I’ll see you soon in
the next video.

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