Woodland scenes are beautiful (just take a walk in one or search for woodlands in google images if you can't. But there is so much going on! There are trees everywhere, leaves everywhere, and the wood just seems to go on forever. How do you capture all of that in a painting?
The answer, as ever, is to simplify. Squint your eyes and all the detail will disappear, just leaving you with the large masses of tonal shapes. These give you the 'skeleton' or framework for your painting. Once you have seen the few basic tonal shapes that make up the scene you can plan them out on your paper. And once again, when you come to paint, don't get bemused by all the details. Paint big simple shapes and slowly add more detail if, and only if, you need to.
This woodland scene I painted today was from a photo, but I altered and amended and simplified it right down to the basics. But I think it works. Why don't you have a go? (There will be a video of me painting this picture on my new watercolour landscape course in a couple of months time.)
I put a few pieces of fruit onto a blue plate and then took a photo from above. From this I cropped it on my laptop and then painted the picture on the left in oils (only small, 6" x 6"). I then had another go at the composition, cropping the photo in a different way and painted the picture again. But this time I decided I would change the blue plate and paint it red. The fruit had to be in realistic colours, but I could also play with the backgrounds, using a bright orange to compliment the blue plate and blue background to show off the red plate.
So here's the painting tip - You don't have to paint what is there! You are the artist and you have the ability to play around with the scene in front of you. Change things! Improve things! Paint them in any way you like! But, most of all have fun!
In the old days people learned to paint by being apprenticed to a master artist. they spent years mixing paints, studying the way the master painted, then copying what he did, and finally painting small sections of paintings. It was a long and tortuous route. Today we prefer to get things done more quickly.
But there is so much to be gained by copying a painting from a master. I do this often, and with each painting I learn. I learn composition, I find out how he used colour, I learn about brushstrokes and tonal value. I learn what makes a good painting.
A few years ago I painted this Sorolla. It's a copy of his El baño del caballo. What a master of light he was! And what an interesting composition. And it opened my eyes to see how many colours there are in a white horse!
So, if you want to learn to paint, I really do recommend that you find an artist you like and copy his work. You will learn so much.
I came to the conclusion a long time ago that in art as in life you get what you pay for.
Here in Spain we have a lot of shops that stock very cheap goods from China. You can buy anything from a plastic flower pot to an electric plug to superglue to a toaster. And everything is very cheap. The problem is that most of it only works once! And sometimes it doesn't work at all. These shops also sell art materials, and, once again, they are very cheap. But you get what you pay for.
A number of my students here in the art class I teach, come armed with boxes of paints that they bought for almost nothing. These boxes often contain a massive variety of colours, usually in very small tubes. My students get very excited about the bargain, But when then come to use the paints they soon find that they are awful, and they end up throwing them away and buying better quality. They really were not such a bargain after all.
Anyone who carries on using them just gets frustrated at the poor quality of the paintings they produce. There's always a wonderful 'light bulb' moment when I introduce then to artist quality paints, and immediately their paintings improve. They are no longer fighting their materials.
Artist quality paints can be expensive, but in my experience they are worth every penny. They are lovely to work with, they last a long time because they are not diluted with fillers, and they give you brilliant lightfast colours. And eventually they will cost you less, and you'll be a happier painter. What more could you ask for!
My wife is a musician (that's not her in the picture by the way!) and sometimes practices and works at a piece of music until she gets it right. Only then does she feel ready to let the general public hear it. All those wrong notes, all those pauses and mistakes while she perfects the piece go unnoticed and no-one ever knows that they happened. All the public hear is her performance piece - perfect in every way. So they imagine that she always plays like that.
This is the normal way of things if you are a musician.
But if you paint, then every practice piece becomes something that people want to see. No-one would want to hear my wife practicing, but everybody wants to see what you have just painted! And when we are learning, (and we all are!), then we create lots of 'wrong notes' and 'pauses and mistakes' in our paintings. But there they are, preserved for all time and for everyone to see. We can't hide from them like a musician can.
My point is this: Don't worry about your bad paintings! They are a normal part of learning. We all have off days. We all paint badly at times. We all create paintings that are mostly OK but have this part or that part that ruin them. Don't worry! You are normal!
And don't feel the need to show anyone your bad paintings! Even professional artists often only show a small percentage of what they create. Treat them as points on the learning curve, analyse them and see what went wrong and where you can improve, and then hide them away! And then, when you create something you are really proud of, show it off! And everyone will think you are a great painter!
Paint like a musician and you will be free of the fear of the bad painting!
Bright colours are just what are needed for cold January days, so here's another painting from the watercolour course I'm writing at the moment. Here's a sky full of colour that's painted from a photo of the South Downs in England.
It's the start of 2016 and I have just started writing a new online painting course. It's been in the pipeline for a while, but the new year seemed a good time to actually put brush to paper and fingers to the keyboard to write the course. It is a course on painting watercolour landscapes, and is structured to take you through painting the various parts of a landscape one by one. If you've taken my Complete Watercolour Course, then you'll have some (but not all) of this information already, but I'm expanding it and altering the way it is presented.
I'll post some paintings from the course here as I get them done.
Here's a couple from the Skies section, showing a sunny sky and a partially cloudy sky.