View Full Version : Struggling with landscapes

11-17-2010, 05:33 PM
Hello my name is claire and Im new here.:wave: Im fairly new to Pastels and so far have only followed step by step demonstrations. I'm finding it very difficult to move on from this and tackle a landscape without the security of following a demo.:(

I begin with doing a charcoal thumbnail sketch to get the values; so far so good:) Its when I begin the full painting with the pastels that I struggle.:o

I just feel a bit overwhelmed by the whole process,and don't really know where to begin, I would really appreciate any advice you could give me.

Deborah Secor
11-17-2010, 06:00 PM
Welcome to our forum, Claire. You might take a look at this: CHAPTER THREE -- GETTING STARTED (http://landscapesinpastel.blogspot.com/2010/02/chapter-three-getting-started.html) to see how I suggest approaching the landscape.

11-17-2010, 06:03 PM
Thank you for the welcome Deborah, I will look now at the link you kindly sent me.:)

11-17-2010, 08:01 PM
Welcome to the forum! Landscapes are difficult in pastel, in my opinion, but if you feel pretty comfortable with the initial charcoal sketch than you are already a good way to your goal! I would start with very simple compositions - especially as you are still getting comfortable with the medium. Don't feel that it is too simple to just do one tree in a meadow, for example. Many folks find that doing an underpainting - even if it is just a wash of a few colors - helps cover the paper and makes getting started easier. The nice thing about pastels is there are so many alternatives and approaches!


11-17-2010, 10:44 PM
Welcome, Claire. Tons of great info here on wet canvas, and Deborahs web book. Have fun and paint. Lots of great people here to share and learn with.

11-17-2010, 11:27 PM
Welcome, Claire,

I'm new also and a fellow strugglee, but this is the best place to be to learn. I have posted some works in progress that are obviously done by a new person, which can be somewhat daunting considering the talent level here, but what better way to learn than to put yourself out there and let others help and guide you through your journey! Despite some frustration and insecurity at times, it's so much fun when you discover you're starting to get some things right. You may just surprise yourself! It takes time but is well worth the trip so try not to get too discouraged! Looking forward to seeing some of your work!

11-18-2010, 12:12 AM
Dear Claire,

Welcome to WC! Know that you are in a safe environment for sharing. There are amazing artists here to learn from, and great guidance in all things art!

I would like to respectfully share with you a realization that happened to me when I started to paint landscapes. Prior to tackling the world of landscape painting, I painted animal portraits from photographs for many years. Comfortable with copying photographs, comfortable with the shapes and details of dogs and horses... when I started to paint the many variables of the landscape I became frustrated, lost. I had no plan or process. I sought help, instruction and researched what I liked about landscapes. (Wish I had a great place like the WC to refer to during the early years!)

One of the best things to happen to me was to realize that there is always another piece of paper. I also allow myself to fail, many many times, in the understanding that anytime spent at the easel is learning time. This holds true for me to this day.

I guess this long winded message is to point out that this is such an amazing time for you to experiment without fear. There will always be another paper or surface to use/try. Allow yourself to fail, and not worry about the end result. The process is the thing!



11-18-2010, 12:33 AM
When it comes to landscapes, I paint what I see, but I temper that with painting what I know. It takes study, like Carlson's book on another thread. Once you learn atmospherics, values, and edges, you'll have come a long way.

11-18-2010, 06:35 AM
I agree wholeheartedly with Kim! Look at and analyse others landscapes, read books, follow dvds but, most importantly, get stuck in and do it! There is no substitute for making, and learning from, your own mistakes. And, even if you have a dismal failure and think you've learned nothing, you WILL have done and later you'll realise that!
Have a great time in the dust!

11-18-2010, 08:56 AM
Learning landscapes is a pain, but well worth the struggle. Great advice given above. I'll add that to me, the difference was to learn to edit. I mean, a still-life (from life) is simply painting what you see. But a landscape? No way one can put in every blade of grass or every leaf or twig on a tree. The secret is to simplify, a lot. Another secret is: it is the edges that define a mass. You can basically put in flat colour in the crown of a tree, as long as you are careful to let the edges show a 'foliage structure'. You'll be surprised at how little variation is needed within the mass as long as the edges read right.

11-18-2010, 10:40 AM
Hi Claire! This advice of Kim's is spot-on in my opinion:
One of the best things to happen to me was to realize that there is always another piece of paper. I also allow myself to fail, many many times, in the understanding that anytime spent at the easel is learning time. This holds true for me to this day.
Just keep at it and be sure you are enjoying yourself! Work with joy and abandon.

Also a few books are here:
-- Landscapes in Pastel, by Paul Hardy (2001)
-- Painting the Landscape in Pastel, by Albert Handell (2000)


11-18-2010, 02:21 PM
I've got a background with computers and as such I tend to leverage it when working with digital reference photos.

Here is what I do once I am happy with my sketch... I will take the digital image and reduce the palette to 14 colors (most image editing programs will always reserve black and white, so you are reallying getting just 12 other colors). When you do this, you can sift through your pastels and match the 12 colors. You've now got the bulk of the tones and colors matched and can start working. Later you can add in the less common colors - they probably deserve emphasis anyhow.

In case you don't have image editing software, I use a free program called GIMP which I find to be quite a effective. It also has a very handy gridding tool which I use for the sketches. I just find it much easier to sketch 6 to 15 large squares (maybe more on a portrait, but big is good for landscapes imo) than to try to freehand the entire thing.

Anyhow, if you have a good sketch coupled with a solid palette of colors, the rest of it becomes more managable.


11-18-2010, 03:27 PM
I have a pad (or three!) that I use for playing (errr, experimenting -- yeah, that's it!) with. This is where I fool around with the media, see what happens when I do this or that, see what the colors do to each other, etc. Because it's for experimenting, it doesn't really matter if my trees look like lollipops, or my lakes look like plates on their sides. (I'm better than that, but I trust this will give you the idea.)

Most of all,


11-18-2010, 04:42 PM
Many thanks all of you for both the warm welcome and kindly advice. Yeah must admit fear of failure is upmost in my mind, and getting past this is a major hurdle.:) But I know it will be worth i and I am certainly glad I have found this forum.:grouphug:

11-19-2010, 12:47 AM
Glad to have you, Claire! FOF haunts a lot of people, even those who are already successful so you are in good company.

Hey, Tim,
I have GIMP but haven't had the time to play with it. That's great it has a gridding tool...didn't know that. It was suggested to me that I try that for awhile until I get used to sketching dimensions, proportions, etc., freehand. Thanks for that tip!

11-19-2010, 07:39 AM
good encouragement and suggestions, and welcome !

for me, the tough part of going from charcoal to pastel
was not having any understanding of colour
which is why i avoided wet media in the first place,
but i wanted colour in my work !
i bought a 96 piece set of Nupastel
to use for a touch of colour here and there
in the charcoal work
in order to get a sense of ability/confidence to read a colour(s)
in a scene
i found myself looking for scenes with colour(s) that i had come to know
it took time, but it worked hand in hand
and there was no time constraint
= i have to learn x amount by such and such a date
and in a fairly short time i was choosing pastel sticks
to set up values as a foundation
and refinements continue to this day

my experience

:} Ed

11-19-2010, 08:17 AM
I really like video's when I can't find a class or workshop (which has been lately).

11-20-2010, 04:06 PM
videos are convenient and can present a lot of information
the only drawback is that it's not always possible to review then
in the same way that you can flip thru a book
so, yeah, i prefer books
Kevin MacPherson has good ones about landscape
and, although he works oil, the fundamentals are in the early chapters
especially about darkest value and temperature
a google will get you there

:} Ed

Phil Bates
11-21-2010, 06:23 PM
I absolutely understand your struggle! :)

I think the main problem with learning to paint landscapes is that there are so many aspects to learn. For example, here is a short list:

color harmony
value relationships
linear perspective
aerial perspective
warm & cool
simultaneous contrast
focal point/area of interest

That's a LOT to learn to gain the basics of landscape painting! It's important to realize the magnitude of what you are trying to do and adjust your expectations accordingly. We go wrong when we try to do too much at once. This is why it is important to concentrate on one or two things at a time and let the other things go.

For example, you might want to work on composition and value relationships first. So, you use pencil or charcoal and set aside color for later.

You eat an elephant one bite at a time and landscape painting is a pretty big elephant!

Hope that helps,

11-24-2010, 11:57 PM
Dude... who eats an elephant?????? ;-))))))

11-25-2010, 12:19 AM
Dude... who eats an elephant?????? ;-))))))


You can't make this stuff up...


Phil Bates
11-25-2010, 03:24 AM