Landscape - Putting it all together
The Grand Finale
The lessons I have been sharing (Lessons 9, 10, 11, and 13) have focused on specific elements in nature, clouds/skies, rocks, water and trees. Now it is time to put all of these elements together into a complete landscape composition.
While plein air offers it's own unique qualities to drawing, it is not always feasible. I prefer to work from photos and in the comfort of my own studio. When I’m out scouring the Iowa countryside ‘barn hunting’, my goal is to compose my landscapes with the use of my digital camera. It is common for me to take as many as 100 or more photos of one barn or of a tree. Every possible angle, close-up and far away are taken – anything to help me as references to use when back in the studio.
Is it okay to use photos just as they are composed? Absolutely. Prior to this digital era, thumbnail sketches were used to compose our artwork. Now much of the compositional issues can be resolved through the lens of the camera or through manipulation in computer photo editing softwares. Most landscape photographs will benefit from minor adjustments to improve the composition and sometimes multiple photographs merged together may be beneficial.
But how do you know what adjustments should be made? What makes a good landscape composition? Here are some tips when working with compositions for landscapes.
- The simplest guide is - if it is pleasing to your eye, it is probably going to be pleasing as a landscape.
- Use the rules of thirds.
- Overlap the elements and make sure they sit on the planes correctly (apply proper perspective)
- Adjust the horizon line for interest. Try a low horizon line for emphasis on the clouds.
- Atmospheric perspective - items in the distance will be lighter and less detailed
- Value composition should be considered as well. Creating a tonal map of the landscape will help unify the landscape. If the darks are scattered throughout the entire scene, it is not going to look as good as balancing the tones.
- Identify the light source. Identify what direction the sun is and apply shadows consistently through out the scene. This applies to overcast days too!
I haven’t gone into much detail on any of these items. Each one could be a lesson on their own! Here are some reference books that go into further depth and illustrations.
“14 Formulas for Painting Fabulous Landscapes” by Barbara Nuss ISBN: 1-58180-385-0
“Design & Composition Secrets of Professional Artists” by International Artist Magazine
“Painting Better Landscapes” by Margaret Kessler ISBN: 0-8230-3575-1
“Drawing Made Easy: Dynamic Composition” by William Powell ISBN:1-56010-998-X
“Drawing Line to Life” by Mike Sibley ISBN: 978-0-9551578-0-6
The first three books are “painting” books, but their discussions and concepts regarding compositions are excellent and are just as applicable to drawing.