Painting Spring Landscapes

Of all the seasons Spring is the most abundant, full of new growth, flowers bursting forth and covering the landscape with massed colour. It can sometimes be a bit of a sensory overload when it comes to trying to capture all that riotous growth in a painting.

You can see what I mean here…the desert is abloom with so many varieties of wildflowers it’s hard to know what should be the focus of the painting.

I’m teaching a 4 week short course at my local art group and have based it on the four seasons. Today was Spring and I helped the students understand how to simplify a scene to create a more cohesive painting with a definite focal area.

Plan to simplify

I start by cropping my image finding areas that interest me and removing areas that I think are distracting. Then I simplify further by doing a simple sketch of the main shapes and leading lines to help me understand better if it will work as a painting composition.

Focus on one main idea.

I found the removing the red bush on the right left me much more focussed on the yellow tree which was what had interested me in this wildflower collection from the beginning. With the large foreground shrub removed suddenly the dynamic shifted and everything points towards the taller background shrub with nothing else competing for the viewer’s attention.

Choose the background paper colour to unify the landscape

I asked the class to help me choose a paper colour and they narrowed it down to these two. Either could work…the dark blue would help create the shadowed areas and the lights would pop on this colour BUT I wanted this to be a fresh, light Spring painting and I wanted that sky to stay fresh and I felt it would take too much to cover the dark blue and still keep it light and bright.

I rarely use the paler yellow paper colours as I find them too “weak” and the final paintings lack drama BUT this time I felt it would work well for the sky and I could use an alcohol/pastel wash to set up the dark areas. A win/win as a base for the painitng I had in my mind.

Suggestion is key

Mass in colour shapes with the side of the pastel and use the tip and sharper edges to create contrast and suggest some individual flowers, twigs and leaves. There’s no need to paint everything you see…let your viewer use their imagination to fill in the gaps.

Let your painting guide you.

The yellow shrub does stand out in both paintings but my favourite area shifted to the grey twiggy bush against the dark base of the orange shrub so I let that become the focal area. Be prepared to make changes to your design as it evolves . It’s a dance between the initial sketches and the pastel as you lay it down- sometimes a mark or two will change the way you see things so don’t be afraid to follow a new path if it becomes compelling.

If you’re interested you can see a video of some of the process .

Do you have your own favourite season to capture in pastel?

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