5 Most Common Mistakes When Painting a Landscape

There are 5 major mistakes that apprentices make when painting a landscape:

  1. Painting details first

Many students and aspiring artists feel tempted to paint details before they develop some structure on their landscape painting. They usually get lost on where to start, what colours to mix, why their colours are not exact, and things like that.

That’s because they’re looking at the final picture, but not thinking in layers. When a builder builds a house, he’ll develop the foundation first, before he brings the cladding, the walls, the embellishments, right?

It happens the same way in painting. The drawing and value shapes are the foundation work. They are the ones we should focus first. The value shapes will give structure to the painting so that we can make our colours and brushwork work!

I know, it’s easy said but hard done!


2. Not relating the major elements in terms of values

Before starting a painting, we should be asking ourselves questions like:

How dark is that tree compared to that mountain?

How light is the land in relation to the sky?

How light or dark is the figure walking on the track compared to the background?

All these decisions help us to tie the composition together and give coherence to our painting.

3. Concept Colour vs. Seen Colour

Our brain tricks us all the time when it comes to colour and tone. We’re all born with a disadvantage called Colour Constancy. That makes us believe that the colours of the objects and things we know are the same under different contexts.

So when we are children, we learn that the clouds are white, the sea is blue, the trees are green and so on. That blocks our brain to see other colours that affect these elements, like atmosphere, sky, surrounding objects, etc… so the concept colour is usually different from the seen colour.

Take a white flower as an example. If you look close, you’ll see that, in fact, there are more greys and other colours happening there than just the actual white!

So, many times what we perceive is not what we actually see, but a   pre-concept of it!


4. Trying to replicate every tone as it’s seen in nature

We can’t actually copy every tone as it’s seen in nature.

We would be signing up for failure!

But we can compress colours and values into a more readable structure where we can capture the essence of nature. We can use colour techniques to create beauty, expression and effects of light.


5. Not enough contrast between land and sky

Many painters struggle to create depth and a sense of space in their landscape painting because their representation lacks contrast between the sky and the land.

Of course there is no formula for that, but usually, the sky is the brightest source of light in the scene after the sun (except for snow areas and some sunlit shapes).

We get deceived by the colour factor, as our brain thinks that blue (sky, for example) is always darker than yellow (grass patches or Autumn poplar trees for example). So, we end up misreading their value relationships!

The good news is that the more we learn, the more understanding we develop and the easier it becomes to avoid those traps. There are principles and techniques we can learn to develop our skills to understand and paint landscape better.

If you would like to learn more about how to get better at creating depth and form in landscape, click here to see the Value & Value Relationships in Landscape Program.

To the eager learner that you are,