Can you think of anything more traditional than the art of Landscape Painting? It became a popular theme for artists in the Romantic Era and its popularity continues to grow today.
In this 3T Art Blog post, we’re going to have a look at the evolution of landscape painting, the categories of this genre, and some design principles you should consider when creating your landscape masterpiece. I’m also going to introduce you to Lucy Quin, an accomplished artist skilled at painting landscapes that are atmospheric and enchanting.
What is Landscape Art?
Most of us have a good idea of what landscape painting is. We’ve all seen an artist’s scenic painting of a real or fantasy landscape, or have created a painting of our surroundings ourselves. No matter the subject matter of a landscape, we can all appreciate its beauty.
Landscape art can be defined as the compositional depiction of some kind of natural scene, be it real or imaginary. Mountains, trees, rivers, forests, prairies and seashores are good examples of natural elements that often appear in artists' landscape paintings. Sky is also an important natural element because weather conditions such as bright and sunny or dark and stormy are key in setting a mood for your work.
Brief Evolution of Landscape Painting
Landscape painting began centuries ago and consisted of only indications of ground, plants, trees or mountains. Many of these early works included people or animals so very few of the remaining pieces from antiquity are considered “pure landscapes”.
Spring Fresco, pure landscape
Minoan painting from Akrotiri, 1600-1500 BCE
It’s been suggested that a clear representation of entire landscapes with rough attempts at perspective and some scaling for distance were first developed in Ancient Greece. Unfortunately, no large scale examples have survived to this day, but there are Ancient Roman landscapes that have. Frescos from 1st century BCE and onward have been found decorating well preserved rooms at archaeological sites such as that found in Pompeii.
Detail with pine tree and pomegranate in the garden fresco from the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta in Rome at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome, 30–20 B.C.E.
Photo by Carole Raddato, via Flickr.
Traditional ink paintings dating back to 10th century China are also considered pure landscapes. The only sign of human life in these works was often a small hut or a sage who was an individual renowned for their wisdom. These imaginary landscapes typically showed grand panoramas with spectacular mountains and waterfalls. The gaps between the background and foreground were often covered in mist so as to increase the effect of distance.
In the Middle Ages (500 to 1500 CE), landscape painting as a form of artwork disappeared almost completely. Landscapes became only backdrops in an artwork. Natural elements like trees or water were used to fill in gaps in the composition of a painting. Figures and their interaction with each other were the focus of paintings during this time and religious subject matter was most common.
The 14th century brought an increase of natural elements to the background settings for figures in paintings as a new acknowledgement of nature was beginning. These backgrounds became an increasingly important component during the Renaissance and an artist who could paint them well was highly valued.
By the end of the 15th century, landscape drawings and paintings started to be recognized as an independent genre. Flemish artists traditionally painted imaginary scenes but were developing the art of painting realistic landscapes.
Artist: Kerstiaen de Keuninck, ‘A Mountainous Landscape with a Waterfall’
Artists continued to evolve landscapes but it wasn’t until the middle of the 16th century that landscape painting became part of the curriculum at some northern European art academies. These paintings were categorized as history paintings and the landscapes in them were still considered the backdrop for figures, animals and other elements, but their overall importance to a painting continued to grow.
In the 17th century, artists found inspiration from their journeys to countries that were being explored by Europeans and began painting landscapes that were quite exotic at the time. Fantasy and mythology continued to be large part of landscape art.
The Dutch Golden Age of painting was a time when many more artists became specialists in the art of landscape painting. They developed techniques that helped them paint light and weather more realistically, creating impressive atmospheric effects.
Artist: Jacob van Ruisdael, ‘The Windmill at Wijk’, 1670,
Unknown source, Public Domain
By the 19th century, Romanticism was widespread and had been introduced to visual art through the painting of landscapes. Wilder looking settings, storms and the mystical became popular themes for artists who all but abandoned classical techniques, subjects matter and the use of proportion in their work.
It was during this time that landscape painting finally became considered a respectable genre in the art academies of Europe and began to gain a strong following in America. The work of artists such as J.M.W. Turner (expressionistic and verging on abstraction) and John Constable (realistic with a high level of precision) took centre stage. They worked on a large scale and their paintings captured the power of nature as well as the distinctive qualities of weather itself.
Artist: John Constable, ‘The Lock’, 1826, Public Domain
Today, statistically, the highest percentage of artists choose to paint landscapes. Whether they’re traditional or abstract, landscapes capture the artist’s eye more than any other subject matter.
Categories of Landscape Art
Landscape art falls into one of three primary categories: representational, impressionistic and abstract.
1. Representational landscapes are the most realistic. The artist paints the landscape as they see it. Colours and natural elements are all represented as they occur in nature. The focus is on the natural beauty of the scene.
2. Impressionistic landscapes focus on the artist’s interpretation of nature and natural elements in their painting. Light and colour are not completely realistic and are often exaggerated. Brush strokes with texture are used to imply how an object looks.
3. Abstract landscapes are a form of creative expression. A real setting can be turned into an abstract work or the artist can use their imagination to create it. The final painting is based more on simple shapes and colours than of recreating the elements of nature.
Principles of Art
We’ve talked about the Elements of Art before. They’re things you use to create your artwork like colour, value, form, line, shape, space and texture. You actually use the Elements of Art to create the Principles of Art.
Knowing the Principles of Art can go a long way in helping you create a great looking landscape painting. There are many principles you can consider when designing your masterpiece. We’re going to focus on seven of the most basic ones that can make or break your design.
1. Balance is used to give your painting’s composition a sense of stability. The elements in the work need a balanced visual weight to them which can be achieved using symmetry, asymmetry or radial symmetry. In this example, balance is achieved using the elements of shape and space.
Artist: Rene Magritte
2. Contrast in your painting helps you lead the viewer around your work and will accentuate your desired focal point. Here, the element of value is key in creating the desired contrast and mood in the painting.
3. Emphasis in a painting is your focal point. Every artwork needs a focal point so one thing stands out over everything else. If there is no emphasis, the viewer will not know where to look. The green tomato stands out from among the red ones using the element of colour.
4. Movement in an artwork is created using curved lines. Soft and hard edges along with repetition can help you create the illusion of movement. In this graphic example, the elements of line and colour are used. If you stare at the image it actually looks like it’s moving!
5. Pattern can be natural like the patterns in flowers, shells and cobwebs, or it can be man-made like geometric forms, bridges and buildings. All of the elements in art can be used to create pattern in your artwork.
Source: Old Farmer’s Almanac
6. Rhythm can be created using pattern but in a non-uniform way. The repetition of similar forms in different positions creates rhythm. Elements such as colour, line and shape are used in the example below.
7. Unity and Variety can be used together in your artwork. Elements such as colour, shape and line can be used to unify the artwork while allowing you to create something that has variety in it. Here, we have a series of strawberries. Unity is created using the same image repeatedly with the same colours but the artist has added variety to it by using a different combination of colours for each of the four panels.
Artist: Claire Pearcy, Public Domain
The Principles of Art are definitely something to keep in mind when designing your next masterpiece, along with the elements that help them. They work together, hand-in-hand, and will help you create more visually pleasing artworks.
And talking about visually pleasing artworks, let’s meet our 3T Art Blog artist!
3T Art Blog Guest Artist – Landscape Painter Lucy Quin
I’d like to introduce you to Lucy Quin. She’s an awesome artist (and a super nice person) who specializes in the art of producing atmospheric landscape paintings. Her work conveys specific moods and I always think of Romanticism when I see one of Lucy’s paintings. They’re not just landscapes. They wake up your senses and make you feel like you’re right there to experience everything the painted location has to offer you. I’m sure you’ll agree with me once you’ve seen Lucy’s work. Let’s meet her now!
Lucy considers herself a landscape painter. She loves nature and never misses an opportunity to explore every new places she visits. She’s able to find beauty everywhere at any time of the year.
“The seasons are to me a major source of inspiration. We don't have seasons in Colombia so the changes, the colors, the views excite my senses and I want to paint and transmit that feeling.”
Lucy has always been involved in art. Since she was a kid, she’s felt attracted to many forms of art including drawing, knitting and wood painting. Lucy has tried just about anything you can name, she’s even had a flower shop which is an art in itself, before she settled on oil painting. It’s a medium she undoubtedly enjoys to work in over anything else.
Lucy has been painting on and off for about twenty years, however, over the past seven years she’s been painting consistently on almost a daily basis. This dedication to oil painting has been challenging for her but its helped her reach new levels in her artwork. She’s definitely improved her painting skills and she has grown leaps and bounds as an artist.
“I love everything about oils, the richness of the colors, the buttery texture and the way it allows me to work on layers and layers to get that depth and glow.”
Since Lucy found her passion to paint with oils, she’s attended private classes and many workshops to learn everything she can about her medium. She considers her paintings to be realistic with a painterly look to them as is the work of the artists who have inspired her.
“I love the works of the old masters and they definitely have a huge influence in my work. George Innes, The Hudson River School, Albert Bierstadt, Joaquin Sorolla, the Russian masters as well as many living artists with the same influences.”
‘Through the Window of My Soul’
Painting landscapes is a sharp contrast to her career as an Architect. Her education in architecture has given her a good foundation in design and art history which she now applies to her paintings giving her an edge over other artists.
Lucy is enthusiastic about man-made landscapes as well as natural ones. All kinds of structures including buildings, city houses and old barns are sources of inspiration that move her artwork in new directions. She’s currently working on a series of paintings with buildings!
“I can't avoid being drawn to buildings and objects, however my approach for everything goes beyond the rendering of the scene/object itself but with the relationship of their surroundings and the way light and shadow affect it.”
‘Blasted by the Sun’
Lucy works with a minimal palette using the contrast between warm and cool colours to create her desired effects. She always has a warm and cool of each primary colour on hand as well as earth colours like yellow ochre, burnt umber and burnt sienna. She likes to include colours like Naples yellow and viridian to her palette to add a bit of fun.
Lucy follows traditional practices when mixing her colours. She never uses black or greys out of a tube but instead she mixes them herself. This helps her paintings stay vibrant and in complexion with the other colours she’s using.
“I found the black in tubes a dead color. I prefer the richness and variety of tones I can create with ultramarine and burnt umber for instance. Same applies for the greys. I create my greys, warm or cold, depending on the effect I want to achieve.”
Lucy’s process begins before she even enters her studio.
“I often say that I start painting before I touch the canvas and that's actually true. I do lots of hiking, kayaking and walks and I get inspired from that. I know when I see something I'd like to paint so I take reference photos or do a quick sketch if I can”
Once in her studio, Lucy creates a series of small thumbnail sketches to help her figure out the design and composition of the painting. When she’s satisfied with her concept, she moves to the canvas or wood panel and loosely blocks in the scene with a light layer of burnt sienna. This is left to dry for a day before applying the first layer of colour.
“I normally paint first what is furthest away and continue towards the viewer. This initial layer is not detailed and I keep texture to a minimum. I let it dry again and continue to the next stage by adding more layers with more color and details. I finally add the highlights.”
Lucy’s been fortunate to have been able to visit the Canadian east and west coasts as well as many towns in Ontario and Quebec. Even though she has travelled extensively and gathered much inspiration for her artwork, Lucy admits her bucket list is still huge!
She enjoys painting en plein air because it helps her to understand the scene she’s painting: the real colours, the characteristics of the location and its feel. But that’s not always possible. Lucy also works from photographs that she shoots herself. Having been in the locations that become her references in her studio, she’s able to ‘feel’ the location and depict the emotion properly that she wants to communicate to her viewer.
“I know that the time I spend in nature gives me the knowledge to judge properly the photo and be able to use the right colors so I can trust my photo references.”
In her studio, Lucy has three or four paintings of various sizes on the go at one time. She applies many layers of paint on each of her paintings and each layer needs to dry before she can progress to the next step.
Lucy dedicates time to painting, learning and doing all kinds of activities that are related to her life as an artist every day. At this point, she says that she has two full-time jobs; one is her day job and the other is being an artist.
“I take seriously my painting activities and I know that I have to dedicate consistently time and effort to improve my craft.”
Lucy’s hard work and dedication to being an artist is paying off. Currently she has gallery representation in Ontario, Canada at the Paula White Diamond PWD Gallery in Waterloo and at the Miskwaa Outdoor Art Gallery in Bobcaygeon. She’s has been the recipient of an Honorable Mention from the Richmond Hill Group of Artist and two Honorable Mentions from the Society of York Region Artists. Lucy was also featured ASK Magazine’s fall 2020 edition which included her artwork on the cover of the issue and a beautiful article about her with images of her artwork.
At this point, Lucy doesn’t teach nor does she plan to. A third job would be way too much to handle!
‘Stories to Tell’
But you’ll be happy to know that Lucy does take commissions. You can get in touch with her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to see more of Lucy’s work, check out her website at www.lucyquin.com
And to stay current with her work, you can follow her on social media:
Facebook: Lucy Quin Art
‘Last Light at the Cove’
“I create art not only because I enjoy doing it but because it is a need, like breathing. I love the process and the struggle and the result. I love putting on a canvas the beautiful scenes that I'm lucky enough to witness.”
Well, that bring us to the end of another 3T Art Blog post.
Are you inspired by Lucy’s work? I hope so. I love it!
If you can, try out the Principles of Art when you’re designing your next painting. Whether you're creating a landscape, still life or some awesome fantasy piece, they’ll help you craft a better artwork. And let me know how you made out.
Until next time!
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