Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Five-Shape Landscape

Reflections on Big Creek, pastel, 10x8

This week I revisited an exercise I haven't done in awhile in my classes. The overall concept is a common approach used by many artists. But in this week's class, we began the painting by dividing the landscape into exactly five abstract shapes. This forces you to combine areas of the same or similar values, and establish the basic structure of the painting in terms of its abstract design, rather than the objects that are contained in the landscape.

I started by laying a sheet of tracing paper over the photo and seeing how I could divide things up. I did some shifting here and there to get better placement of some shapes. Okay so I see that I accidentally threw in a skyhole in shape worries, though...I ignored it in my underpainting.

Below are a few stages of my demo, starting with blocking in the five shapes. I used a few different values of warm hues, which worked nicely beneath the cool hues I used in the final layers.

alcohol wash underpainting

In our next class, I'm going to take this exercise one step further and divide the five shapes into specific descending sizes.


  1. Such an inspiring bio! I love this posting and will make it a point to learn what I can. This painting is beautiful.

  2. Awesome demo! I have some questions:
    •is your paper mounted ? I ask because of the wash and the fear of my expensive paper buckling
    •do you typically do a warm underpainting for all of your landscapes?
    Thanks for this priceless blog!

    1. Thanks, Jude! Yes, I mount Uart paper to acid free foamboard. Although dry mounting is really the best way to do this, I use an acid free spray adhesive and rub it down with a brayer. I often use warm colors in the underpainting when the final layers will be primarily a cool palette. But many times I start with a monochromatic underpainting to focus more on establishing the value structure.

  3. I SO love your paintings! Thank you for also providing the demos--so helpful in understanding your process!

    1. Thanks, Judy! I enjoy sharing the information and am glad it's helpful to you. :-)