Painting Workshop No.14 – Lesson Notes
By Samuel Earp
These lesson notes are intended for use with the ‘Rural Landscape’ painting tutorial video.
This painting is inspired by a rural area in southern New Zealand. This painting features a rural landscape at the end of summer where the fields and hills are dry, the grass is yellow and the trees are casting shadows in the soft evening light. All good ingredients for a landscape painting.
I painted this art work in oils but you could also use acrylics instead.
Please feel free to use the reference photos provided.
The colours I used in this painting are as follows:
Yellow oxide (you can also use yellow ochre instead)
Quinacridone crimson (you can also use alizarin crimson instead)
Here is a list of the brushes I used in this painting:
The design for this landscape painting follows an ‘ell’ or ‘rectangular’ composition. This is where the poplar tree in the foreground is providing an anchor in the composition to form an ‘L’ shape. The stand of trees in the mid ground that bound the fields are providing rhythm in the landscape, subtly leading the eye to the mountains in the distance.
Prior starting the painting I carried out some pencil sketches first before arriving at a final sketch. Sketching is a great way to plan you composition so that when you come to paint your art work you know the road ahead. In this case the photo already formed a naturally good composition so I didn’t need to change much.
I sketched out this drawing on grey paper and a range of graphite pencils from 4H to 6B. I also used a white pastel pencil for the highlights.
Stage One – Blocking in the Painting
I am painting on a 12” x 16” linen panel. The panel is pre made with a medium weave linen that is oil primed.
I sketch out the composition using a No.1 round brush with burnt sienna mixed with Liquin Original (Liquin). I am using Liquin as a medium to thin the paint, it also has the advantage of speeding up the drying time.
Painting the Dark Values and Shadows First
Whenever I block in a painting I begin by establishing my dark values and shadows first. Value is how light or dark a subject is and by painting the dark values first it makes it easier to create a tonal dynamic in the painting. When observing the landscape in real life we will find our darkest shadows and our lightest lights in the foreground, but as landforms recede darks are not as dark and lights are not as light as the value scale narrows.
In this painting the lightest shadows are in the clouds and the mountains in the background. I mixed the colours for the shadows with ultramarine blue and a little burnt sienna to desaturate the blue. I then mix in some titanium white to adjust the value and I add a small amount of quinacridone crimson to give the mix a violet tint.
As I work forward in the landscape those shadows are going to be getting darker. I used the same colour combination for the shadows in the mid ground trees but with less titanium white in the mix to make the value darker.
The shadows in the Lombardy poplar tree in the foreground are the darkest values in this landscape. This is because tree foliage is naturally dark in value especially where there are occlusion shadows within the tree canopies. For these shadows I mix ultramarine blue and a little yellow oxide.
Once I have established my main areas of shadows in my painting I work back starting with the furthest zone away and that is the sky. The clouds are a mix of titanium white with a little burnt sienna. The sky is a mix of ultramarine blue, titanium white and a little phthalo green. Skies and clouds are s usually some of the lightest values to be found in the landscape.
I paint the areas of the mountains that are in the full sunlight. These mountain slopes have tussock grass growing on them which are naturally a pale straw colour and I mix this with yellow oxide, titanium white, a little burnt sienna and a little ultramarine blue.
Next I paint the trees in the mid ground. As green wavelengths of light don’t travel well over long distances they tend to drop out the further away they are so I need to keep this in mind when I paint the trees that are in the distant mid ground.
For these trees I mix yellow oxide, ultramarine blue, a little quinacridone crimson and titanium white but as I work forward towards the foreground I increase the saturation of the greens by introducing a little cadmium yellow, cadmium orange and even phthalo green.
I paint the straw coloured grass with a mix of yellow oxide, titanium white, quinacridone crimson and ultramarine blue. I make sure to keep the value of the colour light and I even introduce a little phthalo green to some of those distant fields. I only use a tiny amount of phthalo green here as it’s a very strong colour.
I mix the colours for the Lombardy poplar tree foliage with a mix of yellow oxide, ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow and a little cadmium orange. I can adjust the value with some titanium white.
I complete the blocking in stage by painting the grass in the foreground and the sheep. I used the same colours in foreground grass as I did with the grass in the mid ground but I have increased the saturation slightly by mixing in a little cadmium yellow and cadmium orange.
Lastly I paint the sheep starting with the shadow areas which is a mix of ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and titanium white. For the highlights in the bodies of the sheep I mix titanium white with a little burnt sienna.
At this point in the painting I allow it to dry so I can begin adding details to it.
Stage Two – Modelling and Adding Details
Now that the painting is dry I begin adding finer details to it and tidying up the various zones within the painting. I start with the most distant zone in the painting, the sky and clouds and I work my way forward.
Essentially I am using the same colour mixes as I did during the block in stage but applying more detail and lighter value colours especially in the trees. This helps to build up a three dimensional form within the trees canopies. I will be saving my lightest values until the end of the painting.
It is during this part of the painting that I am building up more details within the scene and I am mainly focusing on the foreground area especially the Lombardy poplar tree. I switch to using smaller No.3 filbert brushes to build up the foliage in the mid ground trees and I am mainly using the rounded edge of the brush to apply the paint.
I use a No.0 round brush for building up the highlights in the Lombardy poplar tree. For this I mix yellow oxide, ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow and titanium white. If the green is too saturated I can knock back with some cadmium orange or quinacridone crimson.
Stage Three – Final Details
I have let my painting dry again and it is here where I add the final details to my painting. I have been saving my lightest values until the very end which are mostly in the tree canopies.
I paint a few highlights in the canopies of the trees in the mid ground and the Lombardy poplar tree in the foreground. This is where there are some glossy leaves shimmering in the direct sunlight. For this I mix titanium white with a little cadmium yellow and phthalo green.
I paint the suggestion of a few stems and branches in the Lombardy poplar tree and I finish up the painting by adding some highlights to the sheep and a few more details in the grass.
Colours and Values
Throughout the video you will hear me talk about colours and values. It is important to have a basic understanding of colour theory and values when painting as it will make colour mixing easier for you. Luckily it’s easy to learn the basics and the rest is just brush mileage.
Colours Theory Terms
Below are some terms I use throughout the video and their meanings.
Hue: This refers to the main attributes of a colour and is dependent on its dominant wavelength, irrespective of how light or dark the colour is. For example, the colour is discernible as blue or a red etc.
Saturation or Chroma: This refers to the purity or intensity of a colour. You can reduce the saturation of a colour by adding a neutral grey or an opposite colour on the colour wheel.
Value: This is how light or dark a subject is. Getting your values correct is one of the keys in the success of a painting.
Tone: This is a broad term for describing a colour that is not a pure hue or black or white. It is a widely misunderstood term.
The Colour Wheel
For the benefit of people who are new to painting that are watching this video I will briefly go over the basics of the colour wheel. Knowing how the colour wheel this works can really help you with colour mixing.
Above is a simplified colour wheel. The colour wheel contains three primary colour blue, red and yellow and three secondary colours orange, green and violet.
When these colours are arranged on the colour wheel a primary colour is always opposite a secondary colour and are known as compliments or complimentary opposites. So, blue is opposite to orange, red is opposite to green and yellow is opposite to violet.
So why is this important?
If you want to desaturate a colour you can do this by mixing its complimentary opposite as the two colours will cancel each other out. In this manner you can create some neutral greys and browns especially when combined with white.
Complimentary colours also look good next to each other in a painting, for example greens often look more harmonious in a landscape if there are some reds amongst the mix or colours that contain red. If you look closely in nature, you’ll see naturally occurring complimentary opposites everywhere.
The Value Scale
Value is how light or dark a colour is and is perhaps one of the most important concepts in painting. The success of a painting rests on the relationship between the values in the painting. If they are not working and not in harmony, then the whole painting can lack any kind of depth.
Values in art work are represented on a scale with the highest value being white and the lowest value being black. The greys in between are known as mid or half tones.
In general, you will find your darkest darks and lightest lights in the foreground of a landscape. However, as landforms recede into the distance darks are not quite dark and lights are not quite light as the tonal scale narrows.
If you are unsure of where your light and dark values are in the scene you are painting, switch your reference photo to black and white and you’ll be able to clearly see where your light and dark values are.
In general, you’ll find that the sky is often one of the lightest values in the landscape. Grass is also generally lighter in value. Rocks and mountain faces are darker in value and often occupy the mid-tone range of the value scale. Trees are generally some of the darkest values in the landscape.
More Painting Tutorial Videos Available