It may be that I don’t have that much practice at painting landscapes, but I’ve often found that I’m much better at painting landscapes from old photos of mine (and/or my memories) than I am at painting landscapes that come completely from my imagination – like this one:
The full-size version of this picture will be posted here later this evening. So, watch this space….
I think that my main problem with painting landscapes from my imagination is that I tend to make them too “perfect”. What do I mean by this? Well, everything and everywhere always looks just slightly too ‘clean’, ‘new’ or ‘stylised’. And this isn’t realistic.
If somewhere is old and/or somewhere where hundreds or thousands of people visit on a regular basis, then it’s going to be slightly run-down. It’s going to look slightly irregular and – well – lived in. Even if somewhere is regularly cleaned and maintained, then it’s going to show it’s age after a while.
This is probably a somewhat imperfect translation, but there’s even apparently a specific word for this exact quality in Japanese. It’s called “wabi-sabi”, if anyone is curious.
The same is especially true if you’re painting nature and/or natural scenes from your imagination – nature is, by it’s very nature, chaotic. Trees don’t all look the same and they don’t naturally grow in neat rows, grass isn’t always neatly mown to the exact same length etc.. I’m sure you get the idea.
In other words, I expect nature to look like this:
“Tree By The Sea” By C. A. Brown
But it actually looks a lot more like the left side of this digitally-edited painting, based on an old photo I took in 2007:
“Sandown Beach” By C. A. Brown
As I said earlier, I’m something of a beginner when it comes to painting landscapes. I’m guessing that if you’ve got a lot of experience with this, then all of this stuff is probably completely instinctive when you’re painting landscapes. But, this is something that I probably still have to learn.
Still, one way of getting around this is – as I said earlier – to keep painting landscapes from photos you’ve taken (or photos from the internet, if they’re released under the right kind of Creative Commons licence) and/or from memory. Or you could even possibly paint landscapes from life, if you like painting in public.
But, not only does using photos give you a shortcut to ensuring that your paintings are of realistic-looking scenes, but it also helps you to learn what realistic landscapes actually look like.
So, yes, landscapes shouldn’t be perfect- and it’s ok to paint landscapes from your photos too.
Sorry that this article was somehow both incredibly rambling and incredibly short, but I hope it was interesting 🙂