Help in attempting a landscape painting

Now I am stepping out of my comfort zone (still-life), i plan to paint landscapes from life and photographs.I am curious about artist's workflow for  landscapes. For instance, if you were to paint below composition, how would you approach? what are some of the key things that should be kept in mind
1) while taking pictures of landscapes and;
2) how to gauge values and abstraction?

Thank you very much. 



  • Just think of it as a still life
  • I would first block in the darker tones for the entire composition, then add mid-range tones working from background to foreground, and finally add highlights, again working from background to foreground.
  • edited May 15
    This is a fascinating scene. I agree with @ASCooperband. That is how I would approach this. Go from dark to light. It will be a difficult subject to paint realistically and will need good drawing and close attention to values. You will need to colour check carefully. You'll be able to employ some abstraction in the background foliage. 

    Have you done any work on this photo in an image editor? I think it would benefit from adjustment of the levels, colours and contrast. I use Affinity Photo and GIMP. If you don't have an image editor, GIMP is free and does about everything Photoshop or Affinity can do. 

    I look forward to seeing how you go with this.  :)
  • vartikasinha

    I would choose a simpler scene to begin.

    Have a look on Pinterest. Heaps of checklists on any subject. Here is a couple of examples using ‘Landscape Photography Checklist’….

    Mark has this all worked out for you with a laminated or plastic covered photo and use dabs of paint to progressively match the value, then wipe off.
    Place panel or canvas and the source image upside down and place the right value in the right shape in the right place. Don’t try to paint ‘things’ such as trees or rocks, you are painting shapes and values.

  • I agree that perhaps you should start with a simpler landscape; though you should definitely attempt this one and I think you'll do great.

    My attempt at it would be, after all the colors are mixed, to grid the photo and canvas and go about 1 inch by 1 inch squares at a time, comparing, checking values, and correcting.
  • edited May 15
    vatikasinha, I had a quick play with it in my image editor. I just adjusted the levels and contrast a  bit - maybe a bit too much,  but you can see how an image editor allows you to clarify forms and bring out colour and detail. 

    This will be challenging to paint but I've seen your other work and I think you could do it. Go slow. And do it big enough to enable you to capture the detail. Colour check, colour check, colour check. It's the values that are most important.. Start by mixing the main colour groups - the almost-black, the browns, the purples, and the blues and greens. Once you have your colours mixed, lay in your darkest darks first, then the next step up the value scale and so on  until you get to your highlights. If you feel overwhelmed by the size and complexity,  you could do it in smaller sections following the dark to light process just described. You could even lay down a grid to guide you.

    As @dencal said, forget you are rendering leaves, branches, water, stones. Instead, just lay in strokes of the right size, shape, value and colour in the right place and the big picture will slowly emerge as if by magic.    :)

  • Haha.  Why not make things difficult for yourself?  I think you need to crop out some of the bottom picture, and then crop in from the left removing the left side branches.  That will give you a more workable composition to start and evertyhing will immediately seem easier.
  • Hey,
    As Gary said I would start by cropping. 
    I think for that picture you need a big canvas and a lot of time (could be just me).

    This is a bit more manageable(my opinion)

    1) for good pictures you need good light, at the start or end of the day the light is softer and you can recover the shadows easier. Expose for the highlights as you can recover darks easier than burned highlights.
    When you're looking at a scene and you get that feeling you wanna take a picture, there's something that got your attention. That something could be the light hitting the edge of a mountain, or a tree, whatever that is try to focus your image on that one thing. 
    Look for overlapping objects, create a sense of depth.
    2) just half close your eyes, squint. There's only two things you should be looking for. HighLights and darks. Then open your eyes a bit more. Look for the midtones. Midtones is usually in the darks, but not the highlights. 
    I don't really understand what you're asking about abstraction

  • edited May 15
    That's good advice, @Marinos_88. Squinting is a great way to locate the main forms and establish them on the canvas. 

    I like your crop. However, I also think the central composition and longer format of the original photo would also work. I like the original photo because it gives a sense of the length and height of the bridge that you lose when you crop the bottom section with the river below. But, again, I think either would work. It's just a question of taste really.

    Mark talks about "maintaining the abstraction" where you have lots of fine detail. For example, in his video where he paints a big curly haired dog, he doesn't actually paint every hair but uses abstraction to suggest the hair. In this photo, instead of painting every tiny leaf and twig in the background you could use abstraction to suggest the detail there. That would look better than painting every pixel. That would be to over-define things and lose the painterly qualities. I remember being told to keep in mind that I'm making a painting and not a copy of a photo. I think using abstraction helps to give that painterly feel.

    Anyway, I think folks have given @vartikasinha lots of useful ideas and info here.  :)
  • That looks brutal, I would not try it as a first step to landscapes. You are brave.

    I moved from still life to winter scenes, which fit my style and kept them small.
  • @tassieguy @dencal @allforChrist @Marinos_88 @ASCooperband @Gary_Heath @KingstonFineArt Thank you very much for your time, I am so blessed to be a part of this forum. Can't thank enough. I will keep all the inputs in mind. Just to add, this subject of 'Living Root bridges' is very close to my heart, they are found in Meghalaya, India (wettest part on the planet). These bridges are built for centuries from the roots of rubber tree by the local tribes. It helps them to move from one bank to another, the only way to commute. There are around 72 remote villages with such interesting structures. I have a plan to make a series of this painting. Couple of years back, I painted below root bridge( 24 by 30 inches ), i know it's nowhere close to realism but it's just how i interpreted in my mind . I think I will give it a shot and bounce it in this forum for comments :) Thanks again for your time

  • @Mio definitely not brave, actually there's a need to spread awareness about these living root bridges. The idea is to get support for preservation and restoration of this site, my aim is to reach out to UNESCO and get them declared it as world heritage site. Super ambitious plan but I think Art has changed the world in the past and has the power to bring necessary changes :) I hope I am able to spread the message
  • I really hope you paint this one, @vartikasinha. And I agree that they are amazing structures that are worth preserving. Who needs steel and concrete when you have trees?  :)
  • Wow, I didn't even consider fully what the bridges were made of.  These bridges are legendary!!!

    Great that you have painted a root bridge before.  I too would crop it. I'm confident you'll do wonderfully.
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