Tag Archives: looking out

Expressive Landscape 2 – Creating Mood and Atmosphere

For this exercise I wanted to create a completely new painting from one of the photos I took while up in Chiang Rai rather than re-work one of my existing paintings. I had made several sketches while in the northern province but there was a couple of photos that I thought would be good for this exercise taking into consideration the different artists I had looked at in the research point for this project.

1 Dark Landscape

1 Dark Landscape

The first drawing in water-soluble oil pastels in my sketchbook was a sketch looking onto to the mountain range where my girlfriend’s village is located. What I tried to do here was to try and draw something using similar colours to van Gogh’s darkest paintings such as ‘the Sower’ but from memory rather than look at his works. What messed it up was trying to draw the clouds using the dark tones, the original photograph was taken in the afternoon with a blue sky and white clouds.

2 Surrealist Landscape

2 Surrealist Landscape

This second sketch was drawn from the same photograph but this time I attempted to create a more surrealistic feel by lightening the sky and creating a more early evening feel to the drawing. The long shadows in the early evening reflecting the work of two of the artists I covered in the research point, Dali and de Chrico.


2 Inspired by Paul Nash

2 Inspired by Paul Nash

This third sketch was drawn not from the photograph but from the sketch above. There are slight differences but these were made deliberately  for the colours that I were using softer colours softer edges. The colours that I used here were supposed to be a nod to the ‘Wire 1918’ by Paul Nash. Again this turned out to be a surrealist style landscape and both would look great developed into a painting. However, I don’t know what type of mood or atmosphere I would be trying to create here.

One other thing about these last two drawings that I took into consideration was the effect made by the dimples in the paper, which can’t really be seen here in these photographs but it would be time consuming to try and recreate that with a pointillism technique.

4 Bamboo in Sketchbook

4 Bamboo in Sketchbook

I went on to look at developing a different scene, a close section landscape. This landscape with bamboo trees on either side reminded me of several paintings in Vincent’s Trees, such as Avenue of Poplars at Sunset pg. 49 and Couple Walking Between Rows of Poplars pg. 24.







4 Expressive Bamboo with Sunlight

5 Expressive Bamboo with Sunlight in Large Sketchbok

The photo was taken early evening and this first drawing in my large sketchbook captures that time of the day with the sun shining through the trees on that sunny day when I took the photo. It’s a nice bright drawing but i wanted it darker, my idea was to use similar colours to what van Gogh used in several of his paintings Prussian Blue and Lemon, juxtaposing them side by side.






5 Bamboo at Dusk

6 Bamboo at Dusk

So in this next drawing I went darker, I didn’t have prussian blue in the oil pastels but I did have navy and purple which gave me an idea of how they would look. I changed the sky to yellow and orange which changed the feeling of the painting and also the time of day as this change of colours made it feel later.

These last two drawings made my mind up for me to which of these scenes I would be painting but I still wasn’t sure which colours or what kind of mood I wanted to depict.

Showing these two drawings to my students in class I asked them which of the two they preferred, all apart from one student said the second one. When I asked that one student why he preferred the first one, he pointed to the second drawing and said I wouldn’t walk down there. to which I said ‘The second one it is then’.

The Final Painting

In the sketches above I had basically experimented with colours rather than techniques, scribbling the leaves of the trees in, dragging the pastels up and down the paper. I had no idea how I would depict this in the final painting. I had no ideas what would work or if I could make my painting anything like the sketches above or if I wanted to keep it the same.

Influence from other artists

6 Preparing the Background

7 Preparing the Background

I had some ideas of what techniques I were going to use in the painting, for the leaves of the leaves of the trees etc. I wasn’t even sure if the colours would work in the developed painting. What I decided to do was to throw my hat to the wind and let the painting take on a mind of it’s own, letting any influence from other artists take over in the different parts of the painting.

I started of with a van Gogh sun, lemon yellow on a darker yellow background moving out from the sun in circles.



7 Painting the Leaves

8 Painting the Leaves

The next choice I had was whether to paint the leaves first or the bamboo first, I settled on working on the leaves or at least making a start on them as it would be more difficult to paint them afterwards. At this stage I also started to lighten up the sky so that the leaves would stand out more. I made a start on the bamboo, to see what it would look like over the top of the leaves.





8 Creating Perspective

9 Creating Perspective

At this stage I was just practising the long strokes of the brush and seeing which brushes were better for the job and to also see if the leaves looked anything like bamboo leaves. After a while I wasn’t too bothered about that.


I actually thought about making the leaves more dense or even painting them in van Gogh style with heavy swirls layered on top of each other.

I must admit that the bamboo did actually look like bamboo at this stage, that was to change.




9 Working on the Trees

10 Working on the Trees

From here I began to layer the colour on running my brush up and down the bamboo poles and also painting in the shadows. It’s a good job I hadn’t kept the lemon sun in the background as the shadows suggested the sunshine was coming in from a different direction.

The Prussian blue over the yellow turned to green so that was something I had to work on with more layers and that was probably the turning point. It now started to look more like a thick forest than a bamboo lined trail.




Photo taken on my tablet

11 Photo taken on my tablet

At the next stage painting in layers of Purple and Prussian blue with Lemon to add light it actually started to look like the style of van Gogh.

I had the crazy idea to add leaves to the bottom of the bamboo on the right, applying the paint with the end of a pencil, it seemed like a good idea at the time but I was hoping for too much thinking that it would give me perfect hexagon shapes and it didn’t. What it did do though was give the painting texture.




The leaves were too dark so I begun to lighten them up with yellow and red which gave me the same tones as the leaves of the trees above. As I did this I realised that I had created a really nice 3D texture rather like that of Max Ernst and the mood of the painting was changing rapidly. It was becoming more of an enchanted, cartoon-like forest rather than a scary, dark path between bamboo trees and I was willing to roll with that as I liked what it was turning into.

11 Finished Painting

11 Finished Painting


I begun to add more texture to it the path was too smooth, nothing like pebbles and so I painted over the whole thing with Prussian blue then going back over it with mixes of blue and purple and lemon and white for the light patches.

Then with a small detail brush I patiently began building up the layers of the hair like bushy grass with up strokes of blue, yellow and red, letting the colours blend together in the same way I did with the leaves above.

If I was describe the finished painting I would sum it up as unnatural, maybe even surreal. As the painting neared the end it was like I could see both the influence of Max Ernst and van Gogh coming together on the canvas and so I went with it.

Thoughts on the Finished Painting

  • The finished painting turned out to be nothing like the studies, in a way I wish it had but it doesn’t have to be the end of it, I still have them and I can use them again later.
  • The colours in the painting go together well but I did intend it to be darker.
  • I was hoping the painting would feel more natural but I like the overall feeling of it so I am not going to change anything. I did try painting leaves down the side of the trees but they didn’t look right.
  • There are definite signs of influence from 2 or more of the artists I looked at in the research point.
  • If I was to do it again I would paint it quicker with more random brushstrokes for a more natural feeling.

Perspective 1 – Linear Perspective

Canaletto - The Grand Canal with S Simeone Piccolo

Canaletto – The Grand Canal with S Simeone Piccolo

When I think of think of linear perspective in an urban landscape I think of Canaletto and his paintings of Venice and his wonderful interpretations of the canal systems and architecture.

They used to call Bangkok the Venice of Southeast Asia due to the network of canals  in and around the city, most of which have been closed off and made into open sewers. One of these canals is situated behind the Temple school where I teach and so to start this exercise I did  rather lengthy study of the canal and the buildings around it,


Canal Behind Debsirin School

1 Behind Debsirin School - Watercolour

1 Behind Debsirin School – Watercolour

This was the first and probably the best study in this exercise completed from life and in one sitting. I put it together in pieces like a jigsaw drawing the main lines and filling in the details one part at a time rather than drawing the lines of the whole thing first. The plants, bridge  and the outhouse at the end of the canal give the painting a lot of depth and it is very much a finished watercolour painting. It would have also been good to paint using really thin washes of acrylic using them as a watercolour medium something I haven’t tried yet.

Wat Makut Temple

2 Wat Makut Temple - Watercolour and Pen

2 Wat Makut Temple – Watercolour and Pen

Continuing with watercolour I went onto make this sketch over two pages in my Moleskine sketchbook of Wat Makut Temple at lunchtime.

This time I completed the expressive outline in Rotring drawing pen before ‘colouring in’ in watercolour. Usually on this style of urban sketching I would lock the sketch in first in pencil before going over in pen but this time I hgave up on the pencil after a couple of lines and completed the rest in pen making it a bit more expressive.

It wasn’t bad and is probably something I would like to develop in the future. However, it would have been better if I had used the book length ways capturing a cropped version scene of both sides of the temple as there are nice buildings on all sides here.




Koh Larn

3 Koh Lan Street in Pencil

3 Koh Lan Street in Pencil

I loooked all over Koh larn Island for a place where I could sit down undisturbed and spend time sketching without being bothered or being burnt to a crisp. It turned out that the best spot to sketch for this exercise was right near our hotel/guest house where there was a small passage way in between a resort and some traditional Thai island houses that lead down to the beach.


4 Koh Lan in Pen and Watercolour

4 Koh Lan in Pen and Watercolour

Here I managed to sit under the corner of a canopy and look down the passageway from the road. The first sketch I made was in charcoal pencil, the second in pen and watercolour. The reason for the two sketches was to see how similar the perspective of the two quick sketches would be, if there weren’t that much difference then I would look at developing these into a painting with the information I had.


The Final Painting

Torn between the Canal at the back of the temple and the scene on Koh Larn I decided to go for developing the scene on Koh Larn to capture the memory, with it being my last year living in Thailand.

5 Painting the Outline

5 Painting the Outline

I started by drawing in the outline by dipping the handle end of the paint brush in a slightly watered down mix of primary blue, hopefully this gave me the same kind of control as drawing with a stick, nice and stiff but not too precise.





6 Applying the Washes

6 Applying the Washes

From there I applied a thin watered down mix of watered down blue fading into the white of the support for the sky and then began to apply thin washes of blue for the buildings.






7 Trying a New Technique

7 Trying a New Technique

The brief for this exercise said that ‘the use of line by drawing with a brush or a drawing medium will be more important than your use of colour and tonal contrast’ but I wanted to use this opportunity to practice a new technique. I don’t know what it’s called or if there’s a name for it but I worked in the paint on the wall of the building in a criss-cross motion working the thin layers of red, blue and burnt Umber on top of each other.



8 Half Way Point

8 Half Way Point

After painting the grass and the sand I carried  on working on the lines of the side of the shop and the wooden panels of the Thai houses with a small flat brush before moving onto the resort side of the passageway and the most difficult part, the wooden fence above the wall.





9 Finished Painting

9 Finished Painting

The two sides of the passageway depict a contrast between the traditional lifestyle that the Thais lead and holiday island lifestyle of the visiting holidaymakers and travellers and I was hoping to show that clearly here.

The finished painting is not how I imagined it would turn out. The perspective is good but I imagined it looser and more fluid rather than tight and precise like it turned out. This was due to the left hand side of the painting being quite technical and I would have probably been better choosing a street or passageway with Thai houses on both sides as I like the way the wood on the Thai houses turned out.

The wall on the building on the right remind me of the early paintings of contemporary artist Therdkiat Wangwatcharakul who paints on rusty old aluminium panels, the difference being my finished painting is a bit too clean. Maybe this is because the wall on the right is too clean, would it be better to mark it up in someway?



Looking Out 1 – Research Point

Do your own research point into the evolution of landscape painting from the 18th century to the present day. As well as the large oil paintings by artists such as Constable, look at how many artists (including Constable) have used oil sketches made on site as a means of recording the landscape for working up into larger paintings. Watercolour as also been a popular medium for English landscape painting.

18th Century Landscapes

1 Jan Griffier the Elder - A view of Greenwich from the River with many Boats

Jan Griffier the Elder – A view of Greenwich from the River with many Boats

You could see that landscape paintings were going to evolve quite quickly just by looking at the artists in the 18th century. The first early landscape I came across was by Jan Griffier the Elder above from the early 1700s. Here he probably pieced together several sketches to get the panoramic scene above in which he was telling a complete story of what was happening in Greenwhich. Perspective isn’t brilliant and buildings, although stacked with detail lack life. Figures seem to be a key part in bringing early landscapes to life.

2 Alessandro Magnasco - The Seashore

Jan Griffier the Elder – A view of Greenwich from the River with many Boats

Alessandro Magnasco or il Lissandrino, was an Italian late-Baroque painter and with other painters of this genre that I discovered seemed to add drama to their paintings with figures braving the stormy weather and violent clouds. The figures in his painting also add depth to the painting, painted on platforms in the foreground, middle-ground and background.

Joseph Wright of Derby - Landscape with Rainbow

Jan Griffier the Elder – A view of Greenwich from the River with many Boats

Towards the end of the 18th century figures were playing a less important role in landscape paintings. Although the rainbow in Joseph Wright of Derby’s painting above isn’t that lifelike (it may have been at the time) the rest of the painting is almost photo real  due to his use of light that lights up the middle-ground. This depiction of natural light advances towards the end of the 18th century and in to the 19th century.

19th Century Landscapes


1 Bidauld, Jean Joseph Xavier - The Park at Mortefontaine

Jan Griffier the Elder – A view of Greenwich from the River with many Boats

In The Park at Mortefontaine above by Bibauld, painted in the 1800s he portrays this sunlight perfectly with a clear natural sky, the sunlight reflecting off the trees and the reflection in the water.

John Constable - East Bergholt Church

John Constable – East Bergholt Church

It was here when I was investigating landscapes from the 1800s that I started to come across more sketchy paintings.  John Constable’s painting of the East Begholt Church above, is not one of the best examples of his work and his probably a study for one of his larger paintings but it is a great example of en plein air this you can tell by the thick, loose brushstrokes.

Albert Bierstadt - Farralones Islands, Pacific Ocean

Albert Bierstadt – Farralones Islands, Pacific Ocean


These rough and somewhat wild brushstrokes are great for painting outdoor natural objects that don’t require intricate details. In the painting above by German American artist Albert Bierstadt (of the Hudson River School) you can also see that it is en plein air by the roughness off the rocks in the foreground when enlarged. What I would have liked to know here though is which did he paint first? The blue of the background or the rocks in the foreground.


1875 Morisot Laundry

Berthe Morisot – Laundry 1875

Looking athe paintings of the late 19th century I came across my first impressionist landscape by an artist new to me called Berthe Morisot. Of all the paintings I researched so far it was the first painting that included an industrial landscape with chimney’s blowing smoke in the background. The painting depicts workers at a laundry hanging clothes out to dry. It’s the first, of what I would call, modern landscapes that I came across and it reminded me of LS Lowry’s paintings with the almost stick like figures and the grey-blue paint she uses for the factories and hills in the distance.

Vincent van Gogh - Starry Night - 1889

The Starry Night – Vincent van Gogh 1889

The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh depicts the view from his bedroom at the asylum in Arles. The artist painted the Starry Night in the day time in his ground floor studio at the asylum, all though some believe it was painted from memory, Vincent painted the view no fewer than 21 times in different variations and so this was more from studies than from memory.

The 20th Century

George Bellows - Fern Woods -1913

Jan Griffier the Elder – A view of Greenwich from the River with many Boats

Entering the 20th century I came across this wonderful painting by American realist painter George Bellows in which you can see the individual brushstrokes that make up the bare branches of the tree. During the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century artists seem to be doing more and more experimenting and not just concentrating on panoramic views anymore but concentrating on the beauty of smaller sections of the landscape.

Anita Ree - Dorfansicht -1920

Anita Ree – Dorfanischt – 1920

Things were also starting to wobble as people discovered more artistic freedom, not just to play around with natural forms but to find more ways of depicting the contrast of natural forms against made objects such as in Anita Clara Rée’s painting above.

Thomas Hart Benton - Chilmark Landscape

Thomas Hart Benton – Chilmark Landscape

American painter and muralist Thomas Hart Benton’s painting  ‘Chilmark Landscape’ above, also seems to have a certain wobbliness about it. However, from what I have seen from his other works, Benton as with Grant Wood seem to notice the natural patterns that occur in nature as well as well as the patterns that man’s impact on nature as created and exploit these in their landscape paintings.

Stone City, Iowa , 1930 oil on wood panel

Grant Wood – Stone City, Iowa, 1930, oil on wood panel

Grant wood along with Thomas Hart Benton was at the forefront of the Regionalist art movement in America. His paintings are notable for the lines of lollipop trees bending around exaggerated rolling hills with swooping roads making his landscapes some of the ‘softest’ ever. Unlike Lowry, who’s colours fade out to depict the distance, Wood keeps the same tones but uses the size of the trees, buildings and hills to depict the distance. This gives his paintings a cartoon feel to them.

1958 - Industrial Landscape - LS Lowry

LS Lowry – Industrial Landscape – 1958


Famous for his industrial landscapes and ‘matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs’ L.S. lowry will be one artist who will be definitely having an influence on my work through this part of the course. Living in Bangkok, a sprawling metropolis of tall buildings I will hopefully be employing Lowry’s technique of using pale hues to depict buildings in the distance through the gaps in the skyline.


Gammelshausen, county Göppingen, Margret Hofheinz-Döring 1980s

Over the last few years a variety of watercolour painting technique’s have appeared, in the painting Gammelshausen, county Göppinge 1980s,  Margret Hofheinz – Döring has used watercolour as a drawing medium, sketching in much the same way as an illustrator.

Steve Greaves - All Saints Church, Darfield

Steve Greaves – All Saints Church, Darfield

Where as  Steve Greaves in his painting above ‘All Saints Church, Darfield’ has used it as both a drawing and a painting medium in a style that has become known as urban art.This style is unlike the paintings of ZL Feng from Shanghai below, where the artist has used watercolour in a more traditional way, although he has exploited the vivid colour of the medium and painted what I can only describe as some of the most beautiful watercolour landscape paintings I have ever seen.