Planning Landscape Paintings

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Decide on Your Viewpoint

Landscape paintings
Spend time wandering around a landscape that you wish to paint considering the viewpoints. Don't go with the first viewpoint that presents itself when you step out of your car!. Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to, Inc.

The very first decision is where you're going to stand to paint or sketch the landscape, what your viewpoint will be. It may sound obvious, but all too often people simply go with the first option that presents itself rather than wandering around a little considering the options a landscape presents. Where you stand in a landscape influences what you see in it and the angle you're seeing things.

The photos show the same little bay, one taken from the car park and the other from the bottom of the slipway. There are obvious differences in what you see (the fishing hut, the boats, the lifejacket post), but also elements you might not have noticed had you not actually walked down there. For instance, that you see more of the cliff-face from a viewpoint that's only a little closer to it. That the lower viewpoint gives the rocky shore far more prominence, as well as reflections in the water.

Using a viewfinder makes it easier to consider possible compositions. The next step is to decide on a format.

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Decide on a Format for Your Landscape Painting

Landscape paintings
Square (1), portrait or vertical (2), landscape or horizontal (3), extreme landscape (4) ... these are the most popular shapes of canvas available. You'll need to decide which format works best for the landscape. Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to, Inc.

The formats of the canvas you decide to paint on has an influence on how much of the landscape you'll be able to include. Ideally you'll have canvasses in several sizes and proportions so you can choose what will work best, rather than having the shape of the one canvas you've got available dictate to you.

Spend a little time doing some thumbnail sketches of possible compositions. You may stick with your first thought, but often one idea leads to another, to another, and you can end up with a composition that's stronger. Or with several that will create a series.

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Pick a Time of Day and Season

Landscape paintings
Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to, Inc.

Not only will the season it is influence the colors in landscapes, but also the time of day. These two photos are of the same sea peninsula, but look at the different colors! You can't change the weather, but you can decide what it'll be in your painting. Make a decision, and be consistent to it. If you love the scene in different weather conditions, then paint a series.