Here are three really interesting ways to find new subjects in the landscape.
Have you ever wandered around looking for something to paint and ended up going home without even having made a sketch? You’ve maybe spent an hour walking the streets of your town or plodding over the fields near your house, getting tired and thirsty and eventually heading home frustrated and fed up. That wonderful scene that you thought you might paint proved to be elusive and nothing grabbed your attention.
I know exactly how you feel.
But let me try and help you out by sharing three ways of finding inspiration in the landscape. Give them a go and see if you can always head home with a sketch, a drawing or a painting.
1. Turning through 360 degrees
I found this idea in a great book by an artist called Richard Pikesley.
The book is called Landscape Painting – The Complete Guide, and you can get it on Amazon.
I highly recommend it as it is one of the most informative plein air books I have read. It’s full of great advice and ideas and the author has a very informal and friendly way of writing that almost makes you feel as if he is standing beside you and chatting away.
On page 23 he suggests the following exercise:
Stand or sit somewhere fairly open in a natural rather than man-made environment. Rapidly draw or paint one of the views available to you from your chosen spot. Limit yourself to what you can comfortably see in one ‘eyeful’. When you reach a point where you’re happy to stop, turen a little so that you can see the next section from the same point. Start a second drawing or painting so that its left hand edge would join on to the right hand side of the first image. Keep going with more pictures until you have returned to your starting point.
So, I went out and did just that!
What did I learn? Well, it was fascinating, and I intend to do more like this.
Firstly, I realised that there are drawings to be made everywhere and anywhere. You don’t need to look for a specific subject. Everything becomes your subject!
Secondly, I was able (as he does in his book) to use a mixture of drawing and painting to enhance and explore the overall picture. Some areas I left as just pencil lines, and other areas I added paint. I was free to do this because each panel was a separate picture as it were, but I loved the mix, and is something that may well be worth exploring within the limits of a single painting.
Finally, I found out that the dirt track that headed diagonally away from me in the first panel, was horizontal in the last panel, even though in theory the last panel should join onto the first. I have no idea why this should be, but it did make me think anew about what I saw in front of me!
2. It’s behind you!
Here’s another idea for finding painting subjects when you are outdoors. Perhaps you have found an interesting scene to paint and you have made a sketch of it and are ready to pack up but not just head home. Why not give yourself a challenge? Turn around through 180 degrees and paint what is behind you. Whatever it is. Even if it is ugly or uninteresting! This will challenge your abilities to find beauty and subject matter anywhere.
3. Walk a minute
Go for a walk and put on the stopwatch or alarm on your phone so that it alerts you after 1 minute. When the alarm goes off, stop walking and sketch whatever is around you. Then start the timer again and stop and sketch when the alarm rings again. By doing this you are forced to draw or paint a whole variety of things that you may normally have ignored. If you like a long walk, then set the timer for every 5 or 10 minutes!
Thanks for reading this post and I hope some or all of this has inspired you!
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I tend o paint singular objects or group of objects in a narrow view, mainly inside. I am trying to widen my horizons. What excellent ideas to help me. Thank you.
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My pleasure – we can all learn from each other!
Excellent ideas – well worth following when out sketching. Thanks for the intro to Richard Pikesley as well – so vibrant and energetic.