Tonight's idea is this. Drawing in the landscape is often about sorting. We sort the spots and shapes in front of us into two piles, THE LIGHTS AND THE DARKS. Every time we make a mark on the canvas that represents something in front of us, we sort it into one pile or the other. Just like sorting the laundry. This thing is dark, this one is light. Everything goes into one of those two piles, the lights or the darks.
THERE IS NO OTHER PILE. EVERYTHING EITHER GOES IN THE LIGHT PILE, OR IT GOES IN THE DARK PILE. THERE IS NO "MAYBE" PILE.
Every time your brush touches the canvas you must know absolutely what pile the note goes in.
A painting is best when either the lights or the darks are dominant. That is, the painting has discernibly more area that is dark than is light, or it has more light area than dark. An equal balance of the two is static looking. A relatively small number of large shapes makes the best painting because a simple design carries better than a fragment complex one.
To reduce the number of separate shapes, it is good to link your darks together when you can. A simple arrangement of a few darks and a few lights in an artistically unequal arrangement is the best start for a successful painting. If you don't have a strong simple arrangement, it is best to wipe out your start and try again. Without the foundation of a sound and attractive design, you can add detail and finish all you want and your painting will never be first rate. A strong design and a simple effective pattern of lights and darks should be the goal of your lay-in.
Once you have established that pattern of lights and darks, hold to it. As the light changes, our pattern remains pretty much the same. Don't follow the light, not unless it does something really interesting later in the day, but then only that change and then leave it alone.The forbearance and discipline to leave your original statement rather than changing it all day long takes practice. But if you don't learn this, your painting will crawl across your canvas as the light changes and you will be chasing a will-o-the- wisp that you can never catch...until suddenly the sun drops behind the trees and you are startled, confused and defeated.