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Landscape is harder than still life...am I right?

(Ken Rice) #1

Is it just me, or do you find landscape more difficult to paint than still life? I have my own theory why this is… for me anyway. You can’t control the landscape - of course you can choose what you keep in or remove. With still life you have total control of light and shadow.
From my observations landscape has less defined forms, a less three dimensional look. Planes in light and shadow are less obvious to see. Landscape can look flattened out when viewed at a distance. I’ve tried to imagine I’m painting a still life when I’m painting a landscape, but for now I’m having limited success.
Do you have a different mind set when painting still life or landscape…it would be nice to know how you switch your mind on to painting landscape…thanks.

(Andrea Jeris) #2

I also struggle with landscapes. I have learned how to edit. Learning to look for the big shapes first. The biggest problem when painting outdoors is the vastness of it all. A viewfinder has helped a LOT. And a small sketch, black and white helps with composition and values. Advantage: it’s organic so the drawing is easier.

(Nan Johnson) #3

I think it varies with different artists. I find landscape easier than still life! My “problem child” is people portraits. Skin tones make me crazy - and my final product looks like A person, just not THE person! LOL
When I paint landscapes, I’m forever telling myself to “be the light” or “be the tree” - for me, I need to focus on the individual elements (tree, rock, grass, building) but I’m always stepping back to look at the overall.

(David Kuhn) #4



You can have total control over the light in a landscape, too. Here’s a short video you might helpful. It’s the same scene painted with four different lighting keys.

(J M Needham) #5

I go through phases where I find landscape easier, and then I just seem to “lose the feeling” so I focus on still life for a while. I have the same kind of relationship with my paints- some days I am in love with oils, on others I much prefer acrylics. Funny enough, though, I seem to use oils more for landscape, and prefer acrylics for still life. My guess is that’s because I like to paint really bold, colourful still life compositions, so acrylics work better for that… while oils give me more subtle transitions of colour and allow me to make changes quickly, useful when working outdoors.

Landscape, to me, is quite connected to emotion- I tend to paint places that I love, and I want to convey the feeling of being there, not just the visual. Still Life, on the other hand, is more of a technical exercise- something I do because I enjoy challenging myself, and I can focus on a particular element- colour, composition, texture, reflection. And if I get it right, the end result is aesthetically pleasing enough for other people to enjoy it too!

Landscape is a big genre. I find woodland, hills and fields come fairly naturally to me, and I adore painting greens. Rivers and lakes are good, but coastal scenes are harder. Snowy mountains are more of a challenge again, and ugh, I can not paint deserts. Which makes sense, as I don’t visit the beach often, live in a mountain-less area, and I avoid hot climates like the plague. If I’m painting en plein air then a lot depends on the lighting, temperature, and how many people come up to talk to me (and how social I’m feeling) on a good day, the picture paints itself. On a bad day, I spend hours fighting with it and get nowhere.

And still life- some days, I can’t paint enough of them, I feel so enthusiastic and it just flows. Other days, I go through my collection of objects, raid the fridge and garden, and nothing inspires me in the slightest. I choose some items, spend an hour or two trying to arrange them into a composition, and eventually give up and go off to sulk for a while.

I think it varies a lot by artist, so I don’t think there’s really a “standard hierarchy of difficult”… And I think difficulty for me depends on the particular subject, rather than the genre. A patterned ceramic gives me more of a headache than a local landscape, but a foreign landscape will be harder for me than fruit.

Sorry for my massive long reply haha, I sit down to write a few sentences and end up with a novel… I hope something in my ramble interests/helps others!

(Geoff) #6

Landscape is my favorite subject, but I do find it harder than still life.

First, there’s that pesky sun: it doesn’t stop moving! Painting on overcast days can ameliorate the problem of changing sun angle, but it doesn’t eliminate it entirely.

Also, I work almost exclusively from life, which means whenever I paint a landscape, I’m outdoors, plein air. That means going without some of the conveniences of the studio: a smaller palette with less mixing room, maybe a smaller selection of paints, onlookers, distractions, wind, bugs, sunburn, etc. (Not to mention finding a restroom, or a suitably remote tree…).

Plus composition is tougher with landscapes, at least for me. With a still life, I can move stuff around as if I’m in a sandbox. With a landscape, I have to mentally move a tree here, a trash can there, ignore this set of rocks, add a figure, simplify the background, think about atmospheric perspective, etc. To my mind, composition is half the battle in landscapes.

Still, I find portraiture and the figure even harder than landscape, so there’s that.

(Susan Gisborne) #7

No: landscape far easier! I don`t edit out elements but I choose my viewpoint carefully. I find landscape much easier to simplify whilst with still life I get lost in the detail often. The challenge with landscape is to avoid the flat horizon, I feel…

(Deborah Mongato) #8

Thanks for the great video on light. :slight_smile: