M. Stephen Doherty

M. Stephen Doherty
The editor of Plein Air magazine at work

Thursday, May 20, 2010

8 Tips on Painting Landscapes in Oil

The view from above the Hamilton/Appel home in upstate New York

Tip 1: Draw the composition with a blue/purple oil color mixed with fast-drying alkyd medium.
Tip 2: Paint from the top to the bottom of the canvas, and from the background to the foreground of the space so the layers overlap coming forward.

Tip 3: Warm the horizon line by painting a mix of titanium white, yellow ochre, and quinacridone red to create the sense of distant light and to separate the layers.
Tip 4: Paint distant forms so they have less contrast and more blue/purple; and lighten those colors at the bottom of each horizontal band to separate the layers of space.

Tip 5: Toward the end of the painting process, add linseed oil or painting medium to the color mixtures to slow the drying time.
Tip 6: After painting an area, soften the edges of the shapes by gently rubbing them with a clean, dry brush.

Tip 7: To paint highlights, mix the colors with alkyd white (often called "fast-drying white") or a stiff medium (stand oil or sun-thickened linseed oil) so they sit on top of the blended colors.
Tip 8: Make sure to have a diagonal shape that leads viewers into the paint, and zig-zag the flow of shapes to take viewers through the entire picture.
"Hamilton/Appel Home," 2010, oil, 11 x 14. Collection the artist.

Talking about the painting process in terms of "tips" may be overly simplistic and obvious, but it's a handy way of sharing some of the advice I've received from artists I've interviewed over the years. In my experience, that advice helps record a lot of information in a short period of time (2 + 1/2 hours, in this case), it helps convey the sense of atmosphere and space in a landscape, and it helps capture the beauty of the location.

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