My first attempts at landscape painting at home were a bit overwhelming, despite having worked
my way through the foundation, portrait, and figure courses. There is so much detail and
complexity in any landscape, and often little in the way of shadows that so conveniently describe the
form of the studio casts. I presumed the principles of working from big shapes to small, general to
specific, considering value and edges must still apply, but it wasn’t quite clear to me how. The
landscape course helped me start piecing it together.
Day 1 of the September Landscape Course involved sketching, and the key step of simplifying the scene down to a few values – often just
three to cover the sky, ground, and ‘vertical planes’ like tress and buildings. We were also taken
through compositional ideas, common mistakes, and things to look for to make the image more
compelling. The freedom to change nature by adding, ignoring, or moving things about is still
something I haven’t quite got used to.
Day 2 introduced painting with a limited palette, taking inspiration from the American Tonalists like George Inness.
Days 3 to 5 moved to a full palette, gradually introducing more varied and complex subject matter such as water, boats, and buildings. Another challenge I had found with landscape painting was logistical. It was useful to see how the other artists on the workshop had rationalised their painting paraphernalia down to something more-or-less manageable.
We were incredibly lucky to get a heatwave for the duration of the September Landscape Course, but this did mean making conditions pleasant for a day’s painting required some thought. Luckily, Ann had picked locations with lots of shade, often by the river. The aim of getting a painting or two ‘done’ each day was a great way of focusing on the aim of simplifying and trying to get the few key things right, rather than adding lots of detail.