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Tutorials and artistic advices

Landscapes: Working with Natural Elements

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The role played by a natural setting (sky, sea, field, prairie, etc.) depends on the place that it occupies in the composition, but also on the treatment that it receives.

What You Need to Know:

  • The more lively the sky or the sea, the more it will overshadow other points of interest
  • Conversely, a calm sea or a peaceful prairie should be contrasted with a strong subject, or your work risks appearing bland.
  • Grant natural settings the place they deserve:  It’s useless to plan two-thirds of the composition as sky if nothing is happening there!


1. Animate the Sky


  • Create a tonal range that harmonizes with the ambient luminosity:  from pink to blue at dawn, from gray to purplish for bad weather, etc.  Define a maximum of intermediate tones.
  • Harmonize the clouds:  white to gray on a blue sky, turning almost purple for a sunset, etc.
  • In a dramatic landscape that doesn’t actively seek realism, dare imaginary shades, contrasting them violently against the sky. 
  • Work with volume:  through impasto and shade, but also by reserving clear shades for the sections exposed to the light (behind a cloud, the sun is always there!).


2. Make Water Come Alive


  • Beyond its treatment (line drawing, color, transparency…), make an effort to set the scene:  cascading waterfalls, foaming waves breaking on the rocks, etc.
  • The definition of reflections of boats and other structures is an excellent indication:  a calm sea requires a good deal of clean lines.  Conversely, a few imprecise brushstrokes suggest agitated seas.
  • Position your subjects consequently:  on a stormy sea, yachts heave-to.



3. Create a Breeze


Wheat flattened by the wind, branches on an impossible trajectory… Vegetation vibrates under the wind’s influence.

  • Play with the slanting of stems, prioritize oblique elements… and transform ordinary pastures into graphic elements that are favorable to guiding the eye towards your points of interest!

Suggested products

Canson® Universal Art BookTM

See also

Composing Landscapes
Composer un paysage
Framing, organization, exhibition…Composing a landscape requires knowing how to observe, but also how to make the best decisions at the right moment.