Thursday, March 6, 2014

Buildings in the Landscape

Sundown Light, oil, 8x10

The Evening Show, pastel, 8x10

The focus this month in my classes at my studio was buildings within the landscape. The challenge here for the landscape artist is to avoid over defining and over rendering structures. This causes structures to look too stiff among the softer, often curvier edges of the landscape. As a landscape artist, our goal is to have structures look like they blend into the landscape, and not appear cut out and pasted in.

I think there are two critical areas to address in order to do this successfully:

1) Edges - Yes, in reality the edges of a building are certainly going to be stiffer, sharper, straighter than leaves on a tree or the foliage of a bush. But the job of the landscape artist is to be the editor of our paintings and decide WHICH edges get to communicate the idea of "straight" and "crisp." If we render every edge equally, that will lead to the cut out and pasted, stiff look. Finding areas to completely lose edges (often where two areas of similar values meet) creates a more fluid look, and also allows shapes to visually connect, which strengthens the composition. Beginning the painting by connecting large abstract shapes (i.e., connecting landscape elements with the structures) helps to establish this in the early stages.

2) Color Harmony - Even if your structure, in reality, shares no common color with elements in your landscape that it's within, it's the artist's job to find opportunities to harmonize color use. One way is with light and shadow found in both the structure and the landscape. Also, keeping to a limited palette and repeating colors where they'll "make sense"--thinking more in terms of "warms" and "cools" rather than exact local color--can allow you to find more areas for common, harmonized color.

"Sundown Light" and "The Evening Show" are my demos from my March oil and pastel classes. Below are some progression shots from each...


  1. Thank you, Barbara, for sharing with us. It's great to continue on with you as a student. It is nice to see more examples of grouping value shapes. Your explaination of warm & cool to separate really helps.

  2. Thanks, Christine...nice to hear from you. :-)

  3. Beautiful. Thank you for including steps so we can understand the process.

  4. Thanks very much for such helpful information, Barbara!