Video Library


A complex scene is sorted and organized for maximum impact. Four layers of the landscape show atmosphere and select details with attention to what needs simplification.


Any scene can be painted by any level of student. Here we go through the layers required to covey a sense of space and dimension in a western landscape.

The end of the video shows a still frame of how I might continue to tinker with this... refine the edges and shapes. Also adding smaller details such as tree trunks and more water glitter. I think I worked on this for another 45 minutes. This refine stage can take a while with a 'push pull' (add the paint, take it off with a scrape or wipe, and add it back on). Sometimes a painting is done as one sitting, but most of the time lately I've been seeing where I can take a painting - even with small paintings. Be happy with a painting and stop at any stage. Then try some where you keep going. Have no fear of 'overworking' as long as you are experimenting with edges, value and shape/mass you are being creative. If you add more and more detail, this is NOT going to serve the best interests of the art and can lead to a disjointed collection of bits and pieces. Unity and good structure will save any painting not details.

Spend as much time as you need on the underpainting. This is the key to understand how to control the elements in this painting. If this feels overwhelming, make an effort to concentrate on ONE or TWO layer (water or mountains for example). It's interesting to me that when I've tried to simplify and image or take something out this seems harder for me to do. Over the years I've found that simple is not good for me, I like a lot of things to work on. Good, simple designs can feature complexity in a subject - don't confuse lots of stuff with a cluttered design. This is why we talk about the simplification tools of near, mid, far for layers and light, medium and dark for value. Find out what make you happy to work on!

Watercolor Notes: Layers in the landscape can be tricky. Carefully note the value ranges. Work from light to dark. Sponge out or blast with a water mister / sprayer to simplify if things get busy. In general work light to dark, however you may want to put in a few rock shadows to know how dark you can go early on. For watercolor I like Cerulean Blue (very pale wash) for the foam to know where this is, then I paint around this later with the water mid-tones. A favorite thing of mine is to paint submerged rocks in watercolor. Those melting colors are so fun to do! Try dabs of Burnt Umber with an eggplant mix (Cobalt and Alizarin) around the brown dabs. Have the values be close with the brown rocks one step lighter. For the pine trees good mixes are Ultramarine blue, Burnt Umber, and Hooker's Green. HG can take over, so monitor your values carefully as you go back in space on your layers. The farther layers should not have any HG - it will be too strong.