The most important ally in the study of painting is the art of thinking,” stated Edgar Payne, famed artist and author.

One of my favorite books in my library is by Edgar Payne, “Composition of Outdoor Painting.” This little book is packed with a lifetime of knowledge from this famous American landscape painter. It is a must for every serious landscape painter.
I have learned that interpreting the landscape in paint is a matter of allowing the influences of  imagination and emotions to guide you while keeping all artistic faculties alert.  Artistic judgment and the fundamental principles of composition and selection should be respected while painting the landscape.

The concept of a successful landscape painting should have rhythm, variety, repetition, unity, balance and harmony.

The artist must rely on taste and judgement to select, delete and compose the landscape. Nature furnishes us with unlimited and sometimes overwhelming suggestions. It is the artist’s job to transpose the three dimensional landscape  into a two dimension composition while making it believable.
The camera can aide in this task, however it should not be relied upon completely. Unfortunately, photographs lose much of the accurate color, depth and feeling that an artist can capture from life.
Many artists, including myself work from field studies otherwise known as plein air paintings as well as photographs. The camera serves as a recording tool and the field studies serve as reference material for accurate color notes and value judgements that are most often lost in photography.
The following list of things to ‘think’ about will help you make the most of your photographs:

  • horizon placement
  • tree placement
  • check out the ‘rule of thirds’

every good composition contains three or four main values

  • one of these masses in the darkest
  • one is the lightest
  • the others are half tones with shading

palette choice

  • limited
  • extended

color harmony

  • warm against cool
  • opposite colors on the wheel
  • feeling or passage of time
  • brushwork
  • tranquility or diversity
  • emotionalism or realism
  • mood
  • atmospheric effects
  • quiet or grandiose

I generally strive to create a poetic, simplified and elegant landscape. One that  evokes a quiet contemplative mood that is easy on the eye and soul. Below are a few examples of how I used photography and then interpreted the landscape in paint.

I took this photo while on a plein air painting trip in Utah.

“Dandelions & Spring Rains” ©2010 Lori McNee

Photograph I took in central Idaho.

“Snow Flurries Above the Big Lost” ©2010 Lori McNee

I hope enjoyed seeing how I interpret the landscape. There are infinite ways and that’s what make us all unique as artists! Thanks for the visit, Lori

PS. Let’s meet on Twitter and Facebook!

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