painting landscapes - John Pototschnik - OutdoorPainter.ccom

You don’t actually have to learn drawing techniques if you’re painting landscapes, right? John Pototschnik shares his insights.

Painting Landscapes: Why Draw?

Some years ago, when I was asked to teach a weekly art class, I gladly accepted. I expected a class full of eager, enthusiastic students, ready to tackle the challenges of becoming fine artists. The class was full (17 students), but when they were given a simple drawing exercise, I quickly realized none of them had the slightest understanding of perspective.

Desiring to actually teach them something and not just collect their money, I told them to put away their paints, we were going to concentrate on learning how to draw the cone, sphere, cube, and cylinder in perspective. The next week, one student showed up . . . and that was the end of that.

Having taught many workshops over the years, I’ve seen that students are extremely excited about color and paint. They just want to get that paint on the canvas. It is easy for them to acknowledge that their drawing skills are weak, but it’s a whole other thing entirely to see them diligently buckle down and do the hard and sometimes tedious work necessary to improve that skill.

Fortunately, the emptiness of the “modern art” movement has awakened many to the importance of drawing. After all the hype negating its importance, artists are in fact realizing that drawing is at the very heart of our ability to communicate as artists. I call it the foundation of all painting. Just as a house built on a lousy foundation will not stand, neither will our paintings hold up if the drawing foundation is unstable.

Painting Landscapes: Start with a Sketch

John Pototschnik - painting landscapes -
Using ¼ inch grid paper when working out ideas is a very easy way to try various canvas proportions, and it saves a lot of time later when enlarging the sketch to canvas. The painting’s canvas was predetermined to be 30 x 40 inches, so all sketches were done to that proportion: 4.5 x 6 inches. A high horizon line was chosen; perspective lines of all the structures vanish to some point on that line. Indicated are some perspective lines that illustrate this point.
John Pototschnik - painting landscapes -
Working with gray felt-tip markers is a quick way to experiment with various value arrangements. Here, all the foreground is in shadow, with sunlight on the church and background. I do not always use this approach when developing ideas for painting landscapes. Most often I do small black-and-white oil studies, working out the composition, drawing, and value structure in one go. Several of these may be completed before a final decision is made.
John Pototschnik - painting landscapes -
This sketch for the landscape painting shows the sunlight evenly distributed throughout the scene.
John Pototschnik how to draw and paint landscapes -
This sketch depicts clouds as they move over the landscape, creating interesting patches of sunlit areas. Also, the direction of the light has been changed from right to left.
painting landscapes - John Pototschnik - OutdoorPainter.ccom
“Laying Down in Green Pastures,” oil, 30 x 40 in. Using sketch #4 as the value pattern for the painting, a decision was made to change the direction of the light back to that shown in the earlier sketches. Details and even the title often come to me as the painting progresses. The addition of sheep and the title came to me near the very end of the painting.

As positive as the current craze for painting landscapes en plein air can be, I still say that without the foundational knowledge and ability to draw — to accurately represent on a two-dimensional surface the perspective, proportion, and values of the subject before us — well, there is no hope of adding anything of note to the fine arts. [Continue reading…]


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