The Practicalities of Landscape Painting

One of the first things I learned when landscape painting was that it requires a lot of planning and equipment to make it through a full day of painting.

Although it is possible to use a simple field easel, I have found that a Half-Size French Sketch Box is an excellent choice if you have plenty of space to setup and can stay at a single location for several hours. Full-Size French Sketch Boxes add a lot more weight for additional storage space, but the added space will not eliminate the need to have an additional bag to hold your brush washer and tissue paper.



French easels are a lot more stable than a lightweight tripod, and provide a handy table for holding your palette, paint, and brushes.   In this photo I have hooked the corner of my folding palette under the bar of the easel to protect against an unexpected gust of wind.  The metal hooks above and below the canvas can be used to hold panels, but they also provide an additional way to stop your canvas from flying away in the wind. On the back of the easel I use the space to hold my brush washer, brushes, a roll of tissue, and a cup of coffee.    It is a good idea to keep your brush washer lid closed while painting in case the easel starts to tip in a strong gust (keep in mind that your canvas is essentially a large sail, and even a light wind can provide a fair amount of force).

A few weeks into my first landscape course I managed to drop my palette and ended up with grass and bits of sand in my paint.  It is tempting to use side of a folding palette without the feet, but I learned that using this side can protect your paint if the palette goes flying.  I tend to stagger my paints so the whole arrangement can be folded if necessary.  As you can see in this photo the feet provide plenty of clearance for wet paint on the palette.


After a full day of painting your last challenge is usually a long walk with a large wet canvas.  French easels can still hold a canvas while collapsed, making it much easier to carry all your equipment  without worrying about destroying your work


We tend to paint between 6 – 8 hours on the landscape course, which means it is always wise to bring along a sandwich and a drink to avoid interruptions. A very small lightweight tripod style folding chair makes it possible to take breaks if the ground is wet, and an umbrella is essential if it threatens to rain.  In the summer a hat and a small bottle of sunscreen has become part of my standard kit after getting an unexpected sunburn in fairly mild weather.  Finally, don’t forget plenty of tissue and a plastic bag to carry back all your trash!



The Vitruvian Man

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Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 13.12.12
Courtesy of Jon Schwochert

Over the last week I have been brushing up on my knowledge of the human anatomy; quite ironic given that I opted out of Biology GCSE and swore never to return to the subject again.


I did not anticipate that I would become a yoga teacher, nor the Director of a Fine Art School based in Battersea, London. Both have precipitated this return to the textbooks. As I consulted the latest images of the human body in my yoga reference books, London Fine Art Studios’ co-director regaled me with the details of George Bridgman’s 1920 edition of Constructive Anatomy.


I am in this way reminded that knowledge is not finite, nor delimited by a profession and that any good student will be as, if not more aware of what they do not know compared to what they do know. A conversation with a student reaffirmed this:

before I came to the studios I thought I could draw and paint, now I realise that there is so much I do not know. It is both challenging and inspiring, best of all it is exciting to see the improvement and know that I can be even better!”


At London Fine Art Studios we offer a range of courses throughout the year. Last week we held a 3-day Figure Drawing & Painting Course. The over-subscribed half-term intensive offered the opportunity to hone and direct skills further. True to form, and to their credit, students gathered like artists around free food!


As they grappled with proportion, gesture, values and colour they simultaneously deepened their understanding of human anatomy. It is timely that my co-conspirator should now be writing a series of articles on working from the life figure; and that I can add to the discussion and swap notes from a yoga perspective. Knowledge converges and we are all enriched and encouraged to push the boundaries of our discipline in order to be better.


Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 13.10.11It is surprising and hugely instructive to realise that the forehead makes up almost half of the human skull and that, therefore, the eyes are much further down towards the middle of the head. It transpires that most of us do not really see what is in front of us! It is also useful to note that the nose acts as a vertical (-ish) axis against which the eyes are the horizontal (more or less). For this reason any tilt of the head implies an equal and relative slanting of the horizontal axis, also a reference point for ears, mouth etc.


Revisiting these principles of anatomy and drawing is thrilling and allows us all to progress in leaps and bounds. My eye detects more keenly how the displacement of the pelvis affects the line of the shoulders, how it also causes the leg muscles to tighten differently and the shadow shapes to shift.


As with any self-respecting art school, and indeed any discerning artist, we do not assume knowledge or seek to work in isolation. Leonardo de Vinci’s legacy is great and enduring precisely because it crosses disciplines.


At London Fine Art Studios our philosophy is no less rigorous. The teaching is classically inspired, drawn from the techniques of the European Masters, but it also integrates other subjects and interests to provide a solid foundation with the potential for individual style.


The atelier methodology is the final and essential component of our training. It is the connective tissue running through all we do: students are assured comprehensive and supported instruction through 1:1 critiques and demonstrations, they also learn through observing their peers and tutors working alongside them.


More links and learning:image-4 (1)

  • Ann Witheridge’s articles on Painting & Drawing the Figure will feature in the Autumn editions of The Artist magazine.
  • Life-drawing with Ann Witheridge in Leighton’s Grand Studio at Leighton House Museum on Tuesday 15 March, 1-4pm. Booking here.
  • Figure Drawing & Painting Course at London Fine Art Studios, 11-15 July. Contact:
  • Henry Yan, author of Henry Yan’s Figure Drawing Techniques & Tips, will give 2 workshops at the Studios 5-8 & 9-11 September. Details & booking:  (Image courtesy of Henry Yan)