I recently put the finishing touches on this painting which features a secluded red house amongst the beautiful New Zealand landscape. I will walk you through how I painted it and what went on behind the strokes of my brush.
I recently invested in some Rosemary & Co brushes and this painting was my first experience using them. They did not disappoint. Here are all the supplies I used:
- Large And Medium Flat Brushes
- Large And Medium Filbert Brushes
- A Small Round Brush (For Detailing)
- Toned Disposable Palette
- Linseed Oil
- Odorless Solvent
- Gallery Stretched Canvas (Thin Edge)
Here are the colors used:
- Burnt Umber
- Ultramarine Blue
- Cobalt Blue
- Viridian Green
- Alizarin Crimson
- Cadmium Red
- Cadmium Orange
- Yellow Ochre
- Cadmium Yellow
- Cadmium Yellow Light
- Titanium White
Breaking Down The Reference Photo
Here is the reference photo I painted from. Whilst hiking through New Zealand we stumbled across this almost hidden red house amongst all the beautiful scenery. I thought it would make for an interesting painting reference, especially with all the vivid colors which are typical of the New Zealand landscape.
Here are some of the things I considered before I picked up my brush:
- The red house needed to be a feature but it should not dominate the landscape, so it was important that I did not use overly saturated colors for the house.
- Part of the scene is basked in a cool light from the blue sky and part is basked in a warmer light directly from the sun. This means that the areas in shadow from the direct sun should be cooler than the areas which are being hit by direct sunlight.
- I painted with warm lights and cool shadows throughout the painting (if you want to read more about color temperature, you should check out this post).
- There is a beautiful notan pattern that links the mountain in the background with the dark trees in the middle ground. The mountains in the background are around the same value but the colors are less saturated (closer to gray).
- The foreground and water are great areas to demonstrate some visible and playful brushwork.
Stain And Sketch
I stained the canvas using burnt umber and quickly sketched the dominant shapes and lines. I also indicated where some of the darkest darks will be in the painting.
Block In Stage
I started with the red house as I wanted to make sure I got that part right before I moved on to the other areas. My new Rosemary & Co brushes helped immensely here as I was able to use a flat brush to block in clean shapes of color.
The tricky part about doing the house first is that I did not have the surrounding colors in place to compare against. So I needed to make sure I was very objective with the colors I used for the house.
For the light roof (the most important part of the house) I used cadmium red, titanium white and burnt umber. This produced a nice, light red with a low saturation. For the dark areas of the house I just used burnt umber plus ultramarine blue (I wanted the dark area to be relatively cool compared to the light roof).
For the trees, I just used a mix of burnt umber, ultramarine blue and viridian green, applied in a very general manner.
The mountain in the distance was tricky to paint as I needed to indicate that:
- Part of the mountain was in shadow and part was in light; and
- The mountain was all back in the distance.
The mountain would look off if I miss either of these parts.
To achieve this, the lights on the mountain actually needed to be cool compared to the rest of the painting, but warm compared to the mountain in shadow.
For the yellow-ish grass I used yellow ochre, burnt umber and titanium white. I wanted this area to have a nice "glow" to it.
For the water I used ultramarine blue, viridian green and a touch of burnt umber to dull it down. The idea was that I would lay down a dark base of color, then go back later and scumble highlights across the top.
For the foreground I just used gray which leans slightly towards green.
I also started to show hints of the blue sky peering through the clouds.
For the clouds I loosely applied a mix of titanium white, cobalt blue and a touch of burnt umber. I made sure that I was always changing the tone slightly throughout the sky so that it creates the illusion of fluffy clouds.
I then blended the edges in slightly with a clean brush. I did not want any hard edges in the sky, just lost and soft edges.
With the general foundation in place, I started bringing everything together and adding those little details which could make or break a painting.
This can be a tricky stage where many people overwork the painting. So I am careful to keep my brushwork as loose as possible, but not out of control. I also keep using large brushes as much as possible.
With the house, I just add some lines and block in some shapes and leave it at that. I do not want to over-render the house, as it would look out of place. I wanted to paint the house as I saw it in life.
You may also notice that I added some saturation and lightness to the sky and indicated some exposured cliff-face of the mountain.
Now for the fun part - adding the finishing highlights. I usually try to hold back on adding highlights until as late as possible in the painting. If I add them too soon, then I spend the rest of the painting trying to preserve them.
With the water, I used very loose brushwork and just scumbled various colors over the top of the dark green base to indicate light reflecting off the water.
In the foreground, I added some thick strokes of color to indicate plants, rocks and other natural elements. This texture helps create a sense of depth in the painting.
I also added some highlights to the trees, but you may notice that I overdid it. I had to go back and reduce the saturation of that green and make it warmer.
Here is the finished painting plus some close-ups of the detail:
Here are some key takeaways:
- It is so important that you understand the light which illuminates your scene. If you don't understand the light, then you will essentially be painting blind.
- If you have a rigid focal point (like a building) then it can be easier to start with that area before moving onto the more general parts of the painting. With rigid objects, it is important that you get them right otherwise it may throw the rest of the painting. It is much easier to spot mistakes in rigid objects like buildings than it is with organic natural objects like trees, mountains and clouds.
- Just because a color appears vivid and saturated, does not mean that it actually is. In this painting, I bet many people would use too much saturation for the red in the building. Sometimes, you need to ignore what your eyes are telling you and rely on the colors which you will place around a color.
I hope you enjoyed this landscape painting tutorial. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.