by John Hughes
There are three divisions of learning that every artist needs to master when it comes to painting landscapes. What are they? Find out here.
- Understanding the properties of light and how light affects objects in nature.
- Knowing the principles of effective design.
- Possessing the means to express these other two in paint, namely drawing, color, value, edges, and brushwork — I call these the Artist’s Toolbox of Expression.
Simply stated, when these three divisions are understood and put into practice, competent paintings can happen.
Of course, one also needs a certain amount of innate creativity, which can’t really be taught because that has to come from within. But assuming the artist does have some of this, what can be learned are these three important skills of the painting process.
Understanding just one or two of these categories is never enough; students may struggle for years, practicing their drawing, their values, and all the rest to no avail — and come away from painting session after painting session frustrated but not knowing what is wrong.
But it’s not good enough just knowing the skills involved, or just understanding the rules of chiaroscuro or even the properties of good design, if all the other skills and principles are not understood. That would be like an orchestra that is missing several essential instruments or even a piano that’s missing several keys; there is not enough there to make up a well-oiled machine.
Imagine for a moment a writer sitting at a keyboard who possesses great spelling ability, one who knows all the rules of grammar, but who lacks basic inspiration or doesn’t have a point of view to express. The tools are there, but the writer has nothing to say. At this point the writer must gain some life experience, or give up entirely.
The same is true of the painter. The good news is, these essential skills are all there for the taking, with some effort. But just putting on brush miles without a plan of attack won’t do; it takes an honest assessment of current skills, as well as areas that need attention, and then going about acquiring the knowledge.
How does one gain such knowledge? Well, tailoring your own specific instruction to meet your needs is a good start. After making the assessment of your own abilities as an artist and understanding where you need work, you can better set yourself on a course of action.
Seeking out good instructors is one way, and attending workshops and conferences and visiting art museums and galleries is an added benefit. It’s important to see what others are doing and to get a feel for new ideas you can try out on your own when it comes to painting landscapes. We live in a day and age where DVDs are available along with YouTube to further your education. These are good courses of action, but beware of too much time in the cyber world. It’s important to get out there and associate with other artists. Sign up for a class and join a painting club. You are sure to find something that meets your needs and helps you move on to greater heights in your painting pursuits.
John Hughes is a plein air and studio artist with over 35 years’ experience. He teaches workshops and classes through the Scottsdale Artists’ School as well as Salt Lake Community College and other venues.
To view John’s work, visit his website at johnhughesstudio.com.