Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A tip for placing buildings into a landscape

I taught today here in the Mississippi delta, I like it here, it reminds me of Dutch paintings. It has the big skies and the low horizons that guys like van Goyen (above courtesy of art renewal .org) painted so well.

We painted a group of low barns with a dirt road meandering through them. I did a demo in the morning that came off well enough.Then I turned the students loose to work on there own paintings as I ran from easel to easel to give individual instruction. Many of the students had a problem designing the architecture into the landscape, Their barns seemed to have an uncomfortable place in the landscape. Several divided the canvas by area into barn and landscape with neither taking prominence. What I recommended they do was this.........

Paint the landscape first and drop the barns into it. Put the barns into the world, rather than build the barns and wrap the world around them. That way they are painting the elements in descending order of scale. The land and trees and sky are big, the barn is smaller so it is placed into the already established tableau. I suggested that as they lay in their paintings they rub a place holder spot out to represent the structures, but then to get the landscape done.

This gives a couple of advantages. It gives a more believable look, but more importantly many landscapes with buildings in them get too linear, too many right angles and hard corners. The antidote to that is relieving those with the rounded and undulating shapes of the land and trees. Painting those in first makes them more dominant than painting them as decorations gathered around the buildings. Above is a similar scene to the one we painted today that neatly shows how it is done. Lots of air around the buildings and they are within the landscape.


DennyHollandStudio said...

Great tip on scaling down in size- landscape elements first, then architecture. Good luck with your workshop, Stape, have fun.

Philip Koch said...

Good post on Van Goyen, who can be a heck of a good painter.

One of the things I always love about his paintings, and also Rembrandt, Hobbema, and Jacob Ruisdael is how they were drawn to forrest cottages that actually did lean and wobble a bit, just like the surrounding countryside. Their architecture seems to grow up out of the earth like mushrooms. Of course that they were painting houses that were browns and greys helped them out too.

Stape's point is to realize one is doing a landscape painting first of all. Naturally that is the focus, so the sky, trees etc. have to predominate. So it just makes sense to address them first.

If one is seriously taken with a particular house or barn, then maybe they should do a painting that's really a close up view of that structure. Make the house mostly fill the canvas Be clear in your mind about what's your favorite idea. Let it dominate the canvas. People want to see what it is that excites the artist.

Carlos Ranna said...

Great tip.

Could you make a post on painting cityscapes?


Mary Byrom said...

City painting ...I was painting out in Sedonna for a couple of weeks, came back east and in a few days was in a city painting with another artist. The entire landscape was man made, few trees insight. As we set up to paint the city view spread out before us I turned to him and said "Canyons!" And he said "You got it."

Mary Bullock said...

Great tip, Stape! I'll try to remember that one.

Deborah Paris said...

Great advice Stape. I had never thought of the Mississippi Delta that way (my mother's family was from the Miss.gulf coast) but its a good comparison. Enjoy your week.!

billspaintingmn said...

I like to start my day with a bowl of Stapeton Kearns.
It's so nutritious, and good for you!
You continue to help us become more aware of our subjects, and how to communicate them to the viewer.
My paintings are better for this.
(Maybe a prize cigar in every box!?)

willek said...

Great post, Stape. This workshop must be quite a change from Snow Camp. Three weeks ago we were painting in Northern Vermont. Today, the rain is gone an I am heading to the coast where the sun will be on the surf. Mary painted surf two weeks ago and just got back from Sedonna. You just finished a stint in Charleston. Don't we live in a terrific painter's country!

mariandioguardi.com said...

This is great advice! I wish I had thought of it sooner. Man made structures, because of their linear nature, are very dominant in a landscape so it just makes so much more sense to use it as a design element to help the artist prioritize his intentions, as Philip said. A good one for today.

Now, I'm off to go water vac the church's nursery school. Stay dry everyone.

Unknown said...

That's a great lesson. I guess it is yet another way of focusing on the large masses first.

Carol Nelson said...

Your landscape tips are so good, I'm going to have to paint some landscapes as soon as I'm done with my 100 portriats.
Wyoming is in northern Colorado. There are no people there, only jakalopes.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. I am having a great time here.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have screwed up so many paintings by not being able to put the house in the landscape, probably because I wasn't sure whether I was painting a house or a landscape.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I really don't paint much in the city. I have painted Paris and Venice, I guess. Maybe. I will have to figure out if I know anything about it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Canyons, to the left of them ,canyons to the right.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

It seemed even more like Dutch painting to me today.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Cereal? I wonder how much is consumed by people reading my blog. Must be tons. Lots of morning readers.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Don't forget that Renee was in Florida too, and that Rae was New Orleans. We scattered like doves before a 12 gauge.

Stapleton Kearns said...

That nursery school must have flooded. There are two design elements here lumps and cubes. One needs to predominate, the lumps win!

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

OK,Is there a town called Motorola there?