One of the best things about painting a landscape is that it’s not a portrait. You have a lot more freedom to change shapes and move things around. If you move an eye a centimeter to the left, everyone will call you on it. “What’s wrong with her eyes? She looks cross-eyed.” If you move a tree an inch to the left, or even to the other side of the canvas, nobody cares. It still looks like trees in a field with clouds in the sky. I don’t mean that you can put anything anywhere and it all works itself out. The composition still has to be balanced and the perspective believable. There’s plenty of books written on that alone.
My point is, you can get away with a lot more in a landscape and I like to take advantage of that. As soon as I realized that I don’t have to get every shape the right size and in the right place, I loosened up and started designing my own shapes. The reference became just that – reference. Not the goal. I now approach a plein air painting with a lot more conviction and start with bold, confident strokes. I focus on designing the shapes and trust my design sense to make the right decisions. The more you do this the better your design sense will get. You can also develop your design sense by watching experienced painters. You will subconsciously pick up on small nuances of the way they design.
My method of painting plein air can be broken down into 3 steps – layin, under-painting, thick tiles to a finish.
|So, I started the layin with confident, large shapes. Not worried about getting it exactly the way I see it, but just to create a balanced composition. I try to keep my lines thin, for better control of the shape designs.|