View Full Version : Poll: what landscape subject would you like to learn more about?

Deborah Secor
07-23-2010, 06:03 PM
I'm just curious what landscape subject you might be most interested in learning more about. Sometimes we just want more in-depth information, more step-by-step demos, a little more about techniques we can use to paint something.

I'm including a choice for 'other' since some of the subjects have sub-categories like night or storms or sunsets... So let me know what interests you most! (I've also posted a poll on the book blog. If you vote in both places, let me know.)

BTW, this is a public poll, so your name and choice will show up. I hope that's okay with everyone. :D


07-23-2010, 06:35 PM
I’d have to say the presence of man. This could either be the figure in a landscape or manmade objects. The later could be as simple as a fence line or taken to the extreme of doing a cityscape. Both tax drawing skills more than the latitude of doing a landscape without them allows. Both push issues such as when to use and not use hard edges. However, I think they can make a landscape more personal or intimate.

Paula Ford
07-23-2010, 07:31 PM
Deborah, I voted for mountains. The mountains in this area of Tennessee are fairly easy to paint because they are basically big lumps of green. I'd love to be able to paint the BIG mountains out west like the Rockies and Tetons. I find them very difficult to simply and struggle with each painting.

Deborah Secor
07-23-2010, 07:32 PM
Sorry, Mike, but I'm only asking about pure landscape subjects! I'm trying to decide what subjects to expand on, and although your idea is interesting, I think it's another book. Maybe that's the one you should write. :D :thumbsup:

07-23-2010, 07:38 PM
Well I actually wanted a botton to say All, because that is what I need. But since I have to choose one, I voted for Trees. I think if I could just get trees down, I would really have accomplished something. james

07-23-2010, 07:48 PM
I voted for rocks. I would love to be able to do them right.... and the first time. When I attempt rocks I seem to be forever erasing and redoing them. I really admire Bill Cone's work in this area (and everything else he does!)

07-23-2010, 09:57 PM
I voted rocks also. small rock tend to work, but larger rocks tend to fall by the wayside. knowing how to do larger rocks could also add to mountains, mt cliffs, rock formations, as Paula is looking for also. they seem to really be difficult a good part of the time.

07-23-2010, 10:28 PM
I voted water reflections, but it was a hard choice. Grass would be a very close second though. So close, I had a hard time voting.

Deborah Secor
07-23-2010, 10:41 PM
Interesting, Paula. You're right, the Rockies are special and take a bit more doing, don't they? Carlson's theory that mountains are medium-dark in value relates to mountains of the sort you see, covered with trees mostly. The high, snow capped peaks and the bare rock are challenging and really fun!

Looks like rocks interest some of you, too. I always enjoy painting them--so solid and colorful,and shadows make them gorgeous, not to mention water. Boy, Carol, you couldn't pick a better rock painter than Bill Cone (and anything else, yes!)

Chris, I hadn't thought of grass, though I did think of foregrounds...

James, I may end up doing 'all' at some point--but I have to prioritize. Lot's of trees going on around here right now. Could you tell me what you'd like to learn about trees? Anything specific?

I appreciate all of you voting. Thanks!

Kathryn Wilson
07-23-2010, 11:15 PM
I voted rocks too - I could have voted for some others, but rocks seem to have me beat most times.

Lisa Fiore
07-24-2010, 12:06 AM
I chose "other", because what I most would like to paint better are scenes from my favorite place--the beach! I would love to paint waves/ocean well and find it most difficult to convey the motion and beauty of it. Maybe this falls more under the "marine" than "landscape" category, and if so, I apologize!! :o

07-24-2010, 12:21 AM
I cast my wish for rocks also. I so love the Rockies and the Tetons. Amazing when you can spend several hours studying them as you travel down the highway on the back of a motortrike. What could have been a very long boring trip was wonderful, every mile, every twist and turn offered different texture, cracks, colors, etc.


Winny Kerr
07-24-2010, 01:12 AM
Great Poll. I went for Sky and Clouds, wish I could really get good at skies. Rocks came a close second, like Sedona Red Rocks or the Grand Canyon....LOL

07-24-2010, 06:00 AM
I'd like to know about foregrounds - painting realistic grass and undergrowth, up close.


07-24-2010, 06:23 AM
I voted for rocks because I've had lots of trouble with them in seascapes.

07-24-2010, 09:18 AM
I voted for gardens because I really want to paint them, but find them overwhelming. How do you even begin to choose the focal point, what to highlight and what to make subordinate?

This is about the time that I cut some of those flowers, put them in a vase, and make a still life out of them!

07-24-2010, 10:34 AM
I voted rocks, but could have voted for any of them. but many of them have been covered and have more info on them. Rocks are difficult for me and I tend to avoid them if at all possible:P

But, I really want to be able to do them because I want to paint believable creeks and streams with rocks and well, the rocks out west like Sedona etc. in the buttes etc.


Deborah Secor
07-24-2010, 12:43 PM
I really appreciate all of you taking part in this poll.

I never thought rocks would be the (at least so far, apparently) chosen topic--but now I don't know why not! My students have struggled with painting them for years. I suspect the thing to do is to look more closely at individual rocks, then examine how they relate, and further think about those pesky rock faces along towering cliffs and sheer falls. The study of a rock leads to the study of mesas and buttes, I guess. Interesting...

Lisa, the beach is 'landscape' technically, I think, but it's such a specialized subject that many people separate them out. I spent a lot of time at the beach as a youngster, but have little experience in the last 40 years or so. If I'm ever able to live nearer the seaside, I'll be more than pleased to study and write about it. Till then I fear I'm not the one to do it, however.

Lesley, foregrounds and grasses are a subject I have written about and studied extensively. Chapter 5, on aerial perspective, and Chapter 13 on foregrounds, both have a lot of info... and in time I'd like to explore that further. I'm particularly interested in how to portray the 'lay of the land', the planes as they recede in space, twisting and turning, interrupting what's behind.

Winnie, the sky and clouds is a rich subject, I agree. It takes time to learn how to paint something that's so transient.

Robin, my heart belongs to gardens, too! But they are complex. It helps me to limit my vision and focus on one spot, often moved up toward a wall or near a large hedge.

It will be interesting to see how this goes... Is the trend towards rocks just an early one? Or will that end up being the thing most people want? We'll see!


07-24-2010, 01:04 PM
I voted for rocks as I have problems usually when they are connected to water. I would also like something about waves and sea and rocks. I have a really horrible time with waves and incoming sea. Jen

07-24-2010, 02:41 PM
I voted for mountains. I almost voted for rocks, but that's the easy comfort zone choice for me because I'm already pretty good at rocks. Thing is, consider my vote 50-50 between Rocks or Mountains because I've found out that often when I take classes here, the subjects I'm the most confident about are the ones that I'll wind up improving even more.

There's something to be said for a new class in something I already feel like I know inside and out. There's always room to grow. So my Mountains vote is also "Or Rocks."

I've been doing trees a lot lately and like them, like water, but rocks and mountains would be fun to do next.

Reading the comments, I could easily see "rocks in water" and "cliff faces" as aspects of rocks being a really good point about Rocks as a subject. They're great. It's something that turns up in almost every landscape and doing them well can make any landscape look better.

07-25-2010, 01:54 AM
I voted for water reflections which are so complex...but if you did rocks with reflections it would work for me :-)

07-25-2010, 10:15 AM
I voted for other as some parts of the world look different to the USA! I thought it would (a) give other nationals a chance to see the differences (b) throw it right open for Deborah...who might like the chance to paint the majestic Scottish mountains or the rolling hills of the South downs....or the amazing Irish Scenery which changes even on a 20 minute drive! There's a whole world to choose from! A fact brought home to me only a couple of days ago....when commenting on a red path....I thought it should fade as it went away, whereas the locals said the colour was pale up close and got redder as it went away! Any way...I'd like, whatever is chosen, to include a section with another countries offering. So if the topic is mountains, maybe include the Alps or the Glencoe Pass... or anything else that strikes your fancy!

Mary Y
07-25-2010, 10:59 AM
I voted other.I think you have successfully covered a large range of landscape topics in your book.
With time and practice hopefully I can eventually learn(to draw) and to paint them .
However step by step demos help me SEE how to paint subjects.
So I am hoping whichever subject tops the poll will have a step by step demo as part of the information.

07-25-2010, 09:06 PM
I voted for trees, but I meant green masses of foliage - layered, confusing, hard to dissect, like a path into the deep woods.

I also voted for trees with the idea of fall foliage, bright colors in the distance, etc.

07-25-2010, 11:07 PM
Deborah, very nice of you to ask us -- I also voted for rocks, even before I read all the comments. I'd hope to understand rocks and rocks in water(streams)


07-26-2010, 02:45 AM
I cannot vote trees and rocks. i voted trees. and also want more info about selection most essential hues. i live land where is no many pastel sets available i think. i mean brands what i prefer and i shops what i use. two have sets but these are bit far going look sets what they really look. and sometimes i think landscape set depends much land where set designer lives. even still when we dont talk huge things like desert vs old forest.(=i means big trees etc)

07-26-2010, 12:55 PM
Well Deborah, if I could write the book I wouldn’t need to request the chapter. :evil:

I’ll just keep plugging away at them in the interim. That’s how I’ve faced most of my Demons in painting so far. If you do enough of something you will eventually get it right.

Deborah Secor
07-26-2010, 02:07 PM
Thanks to all of you for your answers and discussion. I've gotten too far behind to discuss every thought, but I'm definitely reading each one and taking things into consideration.

I hope all of you who are interested in painting rocks have read Chapter Fourteen--Rocks (http://landscapesinpastel.blogspot.com/2010/05/chapter-fourteen-rocks.html) in my online book. There's a bit there about rocks in streams and those forming cliffs. Tell me what else you would like to know specifically, or what needs more expansion. This is an honest question, not a defense of what's there, BTW! :D

Deirdre, your idea of internationalizing things would be quite interesting. I have no experience painting in those exotic locales, so I'd probably need to leave that to people who have traveled all over the world, like Eric Michaels or Maggie.

:lol: Mike, I know what you mean. For 20-some years I avoided anything resembling people. A student goes to a teacher to learn what she has to teach. This I just don't have! I'll struggle along on these things myself. We can talk in ten years, okay?

I should probably further explain that I would be happy to occasionally post a thread here with lessons, if the subject warrants further information and discussion and you all want something like that, but my question is really motivated more by what you'd like to read either in my online book, Landscape Painting in Pastels, or in articles published on my blogs or written for magazines.

And further, I plan to expand some of the topics in the book, so even if rocks comes out as the all-time winner, if there are enough interested in trees, clouds or reflections, those subjects will be expanded on, too. I may write an expansion of cliffs or of stream bed rocks at different times. And I may write 'how to paint a puddle'! So I'm very open to the specifics you'd like to see, along with the general topics listed in the poll.

Thanks again!


07-26-2010, 02:21 PM
Oh...I'm sure you could tackle the Giant's Causeway (http://www.giantscausewayofficialguide.com/)Deborah! Just a few rocks!!:evil: :lol:

Deborah Secor
07-26-2010, 03:07 PM

Best ask Maggie to do that one...

07-26-2010, 04:09 PM
How about rocks AND water.... beach scenes can be so tricky because of the amount of reflected light and colour. Rocks under the water if done right are amazing.... if not....welll... less than amazing.

Deborah Secor
07-26-2010, 04:49 PM
Patricia, I've never painted a successful beach scene in pastel. I have memories of the beach from my youth, but I live in the high desert. IMHO we really should paint what we know best, and I haven't had much chance to paint the beach, much as I'd like to. I wouldn't advise anyone on how to do it. In fact, I'd seek advice from an expert.

(Having said that, I admit to painting several little beach scenes in gouache (http://deborahsecor-gouache.blogspot.com/search/label/ocean). Marginal successes all, I now LONG to go to the California coast again and reacquaint myself with them. I'd love to learn enough to teach this subject!)


07-26-2010, 05:42 PM

Best ask Maggie to do that one...
Sorry Deborah...couldn't resist!:evil: :lol: I do see why it's best to do what you are familiar with.:)

07-27-2010, 02:28 AM
I voted for water, it's the one thing that is really hard to find plein air here. I plan on doing a west coast tour to teach myself to paint the ocean, should be interesting.

07-29-2010, 02:47 PM
OK, I voted for water reflections, but upon reflection :evil: , perhaps (large!) pictures of rock gardens reflected in ponds; with trees in the mid-ground; and in the background, snowy, shadowy mountains with sky and clouds!

As Mom told me, "What you want and what you get are two different things!!" :lol:


07-29-2010, 07:41 PM
I'm right in the middle of doing a study on streams/water with rapids. I think this subject mixes rocks, water and reflections along with posing a number of unique challenges related to the layering of multiple objects underwater, on the surface and above water) and the interrelationship between all the objects (the placement of each rock effects the movement of the water, etc.).

It happens I was in the middle of doing a series of paintings on this subject when this thread appeared. You can see my personal progress through this exploration on my blog at:

I voted 'other' because no other single category seemed to cover this. I think it might deserve a category of its own.

07-30-2010, 02:39 PM
I voted for water reflections but I'd also love rocks under water. Just took some nice ref pics of a beautiful stream, so it's what I'm working on.

07-30-2010, 04:13 PM
I chose " other"- thinking about running water-streams and brooks- that would include water reflections and rocks, i suppose. But putting it all together! I find mountain brooks and streams a real challenge- and there are many where i live...Thanks

Alberto P
07-30-2010, 08:51 PM
I voted rocks .... but I also think that rocks under water could be great!

Alberto P

07-31-2010, 04:12 PM
Deborah, I loved the chapter on rocks in your book. If this is to come up with a subject for another chapter, one you haven't done yet, that's different. I thought this was about upcoming Spotlight topics or a Landscape Forum challenge.


Birds and adding them into the scenery. How to get your landscape in and put in some birds to make it livelier. I mean that in most good landscapes, the artist will add distant birds. How you get a flock of distant birds is a bigger challenge.

I've seen that everywhere I've ever lived - several hundred sparrows, a hundred or two crows, a lot of migrating geese - but especially the flocks that all settle at once and all rise up out of the woods dancing around in the air. In most paintings, it'll be two or three distant birds to liven up the landscape. Arnold Lowry talked about that in one of his videos.

But I know that if I were to do a landscape around here, it'd be incredibly livelier if I could show that cloud of crows at a distance dancing over the field. I've observed it more often than I can count, but it eludes me and I think it'd be spectacular in a pastel painting to go beyond "two birds over the boat" sort of thing.

Maybe that's a challenge for you. If so, I hope you like it. I am pretty sure even in the desert you get occasional flocks of birds. Not to mention eagles perching on the telephone and power poles.

08-02-2010, 12:16 AM
I need a lot of work on water - living in an arid environment, I don't get to see much of it. I'm really exited to take a 5-day workshop with Liz Haywood-Sullivan where each day we'll focus on a different aspect of landscape painting: Sky and Clouds, Water and Reflections, Foliage, Aerial Perspective, and Shadows and Sunlight. She's teaching in the Denver area Aug 16-20.