- Lesson details
The subject of this scene, an old Italian church, is unique because it is situated at a much higher elevation, being looked at from down below.
Landscape painting in a studio compared to painting on-location are completely different experiences, each with their own set of challenges to face. Painting landscapes on-location means you’re faced with constantly changing natural lighting, as well as nature, but the experience itself can really make your inspiration flow.
In this painting course, Artist Ben Fenske teaches you the fundamentals of landscape painting through a series of lessons. These lessons include easy to follow instruction, analysis of famous landscape paintings, and demonstrations shot on-location, to help you better your painting skills.
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Italy and stumbled across this abandoned church and thought this was a really nice scene, lots
of interesting shapes and I really like the orange against the blue, the orange of the
against the blue of the sky.
And so this is a sort of flat light effect,
which means there's not a lot of shadow.
But there's a lot of interesting shapes, lots of silhouettes against the sky and a
lot of variety within the oranges and greys.
So I'm not exactly sure on the composition that I want right now.
But I pulled out a sort of medium sized canvas and I'm just going to - I'm
just going to go for it. And I might look at it tonight and think okay,
maybe I can adjust the composition a little bit and I can come back tomorrow
with a different size canvas,
but this is what I have now,
so I'm going to just jump into it before the light changes too much and give
it a go.
I'm hoping that some of that tone can be just left
since it's kind of an orangey color already.
So that might give me a slight advantage.
Meaning that I don't have to cover the whole thing before I get to the effect
that I'm after. Also the canvas right now is still in a little bit
of sunlight. But in 5 or 10 minutes,
that should go away
as the sun moves around.
So I'm just going to try to lay out the composition.
I want to make sure I have enough room for the tower.
I'm not really sure how much left or right that I'm going to - how much I’b
going to include right now. I'm just going to start
kind of feeling it out
and placing things and see how it feels.
I want to make sure I have enough foreground because I think the green is
interesting. And there's a little path here.
I'm just very roughly right now
laying this out. And I might bring the tower down a bit.
And I want to make sure to include some of the building on the left.
I'm not sure how much.
Okay. I'm going to the tower over a bit.
So I'm just trying to place things,
relate things proportionally, trying to find the composition I want. And there's a cloud that
just went over. Which is kind of nice.
Hopefully I want to get some - I want to get some clouds up here
behind the tower. Try to get some of the irregular lines
and really make it look like a ruin.
I'm doing a lot of comparative measurement just height to width to establish proportions right now
and still kind of moving things around and
trying to look at big angles and shapes.
And suggesting a little bit of shadow.
Not really going for any kind of color right now. Just trying to place
things. And I'm not going to spend too much longer on this part.
Nice cast shadow from this building that's just going to continue to grow so I
want to decide where to put that. Little suggestion of a path here. This broken roof.
So many interesting shapes and irregular -
everything’s irregular here, everything's interesting already.
I just have to make sure that I don't
straighten things too much or repeat shapes too much.
So I can keep it interesting.
And that's a really nice dead elm there.
Which just adds variety and I might paint that a little bit into the sky,
so I'm not going to worry about it too much right now.
Okay, got to really finish off the tower now. Kind of struggling to get the
proportion of the tower right now.
And I might actually make it a little bit bigger than it is.
And I'm just using a sort of nondescript mud color to draw with.
I'm just trying to stay in this drawing stage until I get the composition
laid out and then I'll be more free.
I'll feel more free to jump into color one side
once I feel good about the composition, it’ll kind of free me up
to jump into color and I think I got the tower a little bit too wide
at this, all right. I'm just going to make it a little bit smaller.
Okay, so not really - haven't really gone for any colors,
but I've got the basic shapes.
And composition and suggesting shadow a bit where there is shadow.
And I've got another maybe five minutes to work on some of the drawing bits.
And I'm going to bring this -
I want to bring that
tower down a little bit, make it a little bit narrower,
but I can kind of cut into that when I do the sky I
think. There’s a little bit of shadow on this roof back there,
I don't want to forget that.
Okay, it's pretty rough, but I think I've got enough
information to jump into the painting a bit. One thing I was trying to do in
composing this was try to get everything at different levels.
So I made sure to get where the roof here runs off a canvas.
I didn't want that to run off at the same height as the tower.
So I made sure to run it off lower.
So I got a lots of different heights.
I also made sure not to divide the canvas up equally.
So if we basically have in this situation have a big sky and everything else on
the ground and I wanted to make sure that this sky shape
wasn't taking up this the same amount of canvas as the ground shape.
So if I would have added more sky,
it would have become too symmetrical or if I had less ground it would become too
symmetrical. So that was another thing I was thinking about as far as composition.
At this point, when the light comes back, when the sun comes back,
I'm going to - I think I'm going to start with the sky and start laying that
in. I'll just do a few more drawing marks here while the sun is
behind the cloud. Maybe I'll indicate some of these windows,
a few of them. I'm not sure how much of this tree
to include, there may be a few leaves out here somewhere.
I've got the composition laid out even though it's a little bit rough.
I wanted to get everything down there so we could go and get going on
the painting. The canvas is now in shadow,
which is going to make it easier to paint - to see the paint.
So that's good. The sun is back.
So I'm going to start mixing up
a sky color and I'll probably will include one or two of these clouds as well.
So I think I'm going to try to start mostly with the sky,
but I might start throwing down paint everywhere.
I've got basically three or four big masses.
I’ve got the sky, I've got the grass,
and I got the sides of the buildings both in light and shadow.
So I would say there's probably four big masses here.
And I probably want to try to start working them all together.
And I'll start by throwing something down for the sky.
I'm trying to figure out right now when the sun is out
what's lighter the sky or the side of the building?
I think the the church tower is almost the same value as the sky.
From here to here. So that's interesting.
This building is a little bit lighter than the sky.
So I'm making a few mental notes before I jump into the painting. I want to
make the sky dark enough that that building will stand out and light enough so it
still looks like a sunny day.
And it's a pretty - it's a sunny day,
but it's not very clear.
It's a lot of atmosphere today.
So the sky is going to be - it's not going to be a real pure blue.
It's going to be a sort of more of a grey blue.
But I'll just get something down and start comparing.
So one of the things I'm looking at is right away
is this relationship to this one.
And this has to be a little bit lighter than the sky.
So I'm just going to make sure.
But I have room there to go.
So I need to actually lighten this up a little bit.
And you could see - if you can see on the palette the sky color I mixed
up is very grey actually.
So this is actually going to be quite a bit lighter than the grass as well.
So it's kind of like - it's just a little bit of a puzzle with
four pieces right now in terms of value.
So I don't want to go too light here either
or else it won't look like a side of a building. And there's a lot, quite
a bit of variety here on some of that.
I will get it right away some of the texture and variety.
I'll get right away just by how I'm applying the paint.
And some of it I will actually mix up
specific colors and and lay them on the canvas. And there’s kind of a nice grey
right here. Okay. And I'll get some of the sky going over here.
I might leave a few places for clouds.
And I'm going to look for a big gradation in the sky as well from
top to bottom. And I’m gonna leave it open a little bit so I can
adjust the color of this later.
I don't want to decide on the final color right now.
I think I need to get some greens and some some of the oranges going.
So I've got the sky relating to the side of the building.
Now I want to get both of those relating to the grass a little bit.
So I'll mix up that color.
And one of the reasons I'm doing this so quickly is because all these relationships are
changing as the sun moves.
And to make it look like a unified effect
I have to get them
relating all together. I can't just paint the grass separately from the sky and the sky
separately from the grass.
I've got to get them all working together.
So I got to be careful not to go too dark on the grass either because
it won't look sunny if I go to too dark.
But I've got this just in terms of values it's darker than this, which is what
I need. I might just lay this in a bit.
Just kind of scrub it in for now,
and I'll come back to it
later. Just scrubbing in a general color and some of that I might be able to
leave at the end. Some of that I might have to come back and be more
specific. And I might get some variety right away too, I might lighten up the path
a little bit right away.
It’s a nice - part of the composition
is this kind of zigzag path.
And I might as well suggest that a little bit right away.
And I think I'm going to get some of the sky - more of the sky in.
These kind of oranges - the tone of the canvas is actually actually works pretty
well without doing anything to it.
So right now the first thing off is the sky so I should get that going.
Get all the orange covered up.
And now that I've got a few things down I can be more certain about the
color of the sky. I might put a spot here there.
A spot of green. Okay. And I want to see a slight gradation,
although today there's not much of a sky gradation.
And some of the stuff I can scrub in
and leave it. So I'm going to be more specific about certain edges right now
to get some of the proportional - to get the tower really nailed down.
I want to be specific around some of the edges but out here
I can just kind of scrub it in to save time.
And I can look at this the drawing of this
patch down here, I got to figure out or make a decision about how much I'm
going to paint the tree into the sky
and how much I'm going to leave the sky around the tree.
I think I'm going to try to actually
paint the sky and paint the majority of the tree into the sky.
I think it's a better strategy right now.
And this bell tower is a little bit the same idea as a sky
hole on a tree. Meaning that eventually I'm going to have to make these little holes
a little bit darker. A little bit darker than the sky out here.
So I'm going to mix up a slightly darker color there eventually.
I have - some of this I can come and paint back into the sky,
but I want to get the main proportions down
and the main shapes right now.
Try to vary it a little bit.
So I think that tower still - I made it a little bit narrower,
but I think it's still a little bit too thick.
And I'm going to make it a little bit narrower yet.
So I'll just bring it in a little bit
on each side. But I don't want to really get caught up in that either because as a
sketch it's not really that important.
I want to be more concerned with the general effect.
Find the exact proportion of this tower.
So I might let that go for a while and come back to that later.
Okay, I don't want to get caught up in any one area right now.
So I'm going to jump down here
and continue to find the edge of the buildings
against the sky
where it seems necessary.
I'm not still not tied to any one color for the sky,
but I have a general idea of the value.
I might just paint that tree into the sky later.
So I'm not going to worry about it too much.
I'll just leave that trunk there.
That one trunk. I’m just going to scrub some of this in.
So I kind of used that as an opportunity to refine the drawing
a little bit. To refine the shapes.
It's interesting that now that I have just even a suggestion of shadow,
which I didn't spend any time coming up with any specific color or value.
I just put down a suggestion of value.
And I've got a toned canvas,
which is mostly showing through right now.
And all I've really done as I've painted a sky, suggested a little bit of shadow,
started suggesting the masses and it’s starting to already come together.
So that's the benefit of using a toned canvas.
You can really get to an effect very quickly.
I can see it's starting to emerge from the canvas.
After just a few, maybe 20 minutes, of painting.
I know I can start working within that framework and being more specific.
I'm just looking at the painting backwards in the mirror right now,
which is just nice to do because as your painting your eyes get tired and to
see the painting fresh it's good to have a mirror.
And what I usually use it for as I just look at the painting backwards and
I can - it's like I'm looking at somebody else's painting.
And I can just say
you should probably start working on that one area, it’s
far behind or wow that tower is way out of place or just it's
a little trick for looking at your painting fresh.
I think I want to get some of these oranges in the roofs
going, it’s another major element.
I'm not going to pick out every tile right now.
Or probably ever but I want to suggest the tiles there.
And there's a really nice orange and red against the blue right at the border.
Between the sky and the buildings.
That's really nice. They’re almost the same value.
It's great. Now that I have that I've decided more or less on the value of
the sky. I can just now compare everything else to that.
So when I'm coming up with the value for this roof right here,
I just compared it to the sky.
And I can see that has to be darker than the sky.
That has got to be lighter than this shadow.
So I'm just putting it within that framework that I have already established.
Okay, I'll get some other few bits of orange in here. There’s a window
over here that's quite a bit lighter than the roof.
And quite a bit oranger, more orange.
Just try to get some of this,
there's a few tiles down there that are very bright.
Some of these tiles are really lit up.
And I'm interpreting them, I’m not painting every tile.
In some cases I might come back into those tiles and put more detail, in some
cases I might be able to leave this initial
attempt at interpretation. Go back to my wall color there.
And I'll just be a little bit more specific in certain areas.
And I'll mix up a - I'm already running out of cad orange.
I just noticed there's a really nice red rusty roof color.
Almost like a violety
color here, I want to get some of that in.
And it’s quite a bit darker than the wall.
And again I'm trying to interpret it a bit.
I don't want to paint it all solid.
And this shadow is moving quite a bit now.
I'll just suggest where that shadow is.
This is kind of nice, the shadow has changed and it started to run
up this wall a little bit, the cast shadow from this building is starting to run
up this wall, which is kind of nice and breaks it up a little bit and
connects that middle building to the foreground a bit in a nice way. So I’m just gonna
include that in there. I don't want to chase the shadows around but when something is
working a little bit better,
I think it's okay to change it. In that case
that shadow the way
it is now it's just so much nicer.
It's just connecting the foreground to the middle ground a little bit nicer.
I want to suggest a few more of these rafters here
before I move on. Okay so now this looks very out of place to me.
It looks too dark and I need to work into that shadow a bit.
And it's a very kind of soft atmospheric day.
So what that means is there's not as much contrast between the light and shadow
today as there would be on a very very clear day.
So there's a lot of light bouncing into the shadows.
So I'm going to try to get some of that. I want to make sure that
the shadows are light enough.
But it does look like an atmospheric day.
And I was thinking also about how dark I want to go in the painting.
I don't think I want to go -
I think I've already made my darkest marks in the drawing stage.
I don't think I need to go any darker than what I've already put down.
And basically what that means is that I'm working in a very limited range.
Because I could go much darker than this but it's not going to add to the
effect it all. It's actually going to make things look less sunny if I add more
contrast. I think I could even go lighter yet on that shadow.
I like it. Probably have a little bit more variety in there.
I’m gonna modify that color a little bit when I come and paint this up
here because this shadow is getting lots and lots of reflected light from
the roof. So it’s gonna need more orange, whereas this shadow is getting more reflected light from the
grass. So it's going to be a little bit more green.
I think I better put a little bit of the tower in,
a little bit of the - be more specific about the color.
I’ve got to make it slightly darker than this wall.
Right now it's about the same value.
Okay so I’ve got this cast shadow.
But anyway at this point,
I don't want to move too much stuff.
I'm past that stage where I'm moving any compositional elements
drastically and I've already basically decided on a value plan that I'm going to have
to stick with now. And that's fine
because I'm pretty happy with it, with the general values that I’ve laid up.
I just have to be now more specific.
Time to make the tower.
I'm going to look at this color.
And then I'm looking at the tower color and I'm going to make it a little
bit more grey and slightly darker than that tower color.
There’s a good place to compare that right here.
They’re almost touching each other.
It's a good place to look to see the difference in those colors.
I'm also aware that the sun is going behind a little cloud right now.
It’s a good thing to have greys in your painting because without the greys the oranges and
the brighter colors won't stand out.
I need to make sure to have enough greys in the painting.
A common mistake is to try to put too much color in the painting.
Too much pure color. And it doesn't work because it only looks bright and chromatic
when you have something to compare it against.
And a lot of times those are greys that you need.
So if your oranges aren't looking bright enough or your yellows aren’t looking bright enough,
it's often just a matter of making something more grey.
In this case it’s kind of an orangey yellow grey,
but it's still a great relative to the other pieces in the painting. And again here
I don't need to fill everything in completely or smooth everything out because some of the -
some of the paint application will start to make it look like a rough
and uneven surface that it is so sometimes if it's working I'll just leave it, I
don't need to fill it in or make it perfectly smooth. Which is another common mistake
I think. And especially when sketching you just don't have time to really make all the
details so you have to suggest them.
Really any type of painting has like that.
It's more about suggestion. And I'll grab my shadow color again and work out some of
these shadows. Where it makes sense and I can leave them sometimes for later
or that makes sense. Check the mirror.
And I think I probably have to move on a bit.
I need to get some of the - right now when I looked in the mirror,
this looks really far behind and this looks far behind.
So I need to jump in there and start working a bit.
There's a piece of this inside wall where this roof caved in that's - it was a
white plaster wall, which is right now kind of a yellowy white color.
I want to get some of that in there
as an accent. Get some of that corner of this building with the more red bricks.
It’s nice to have a few different toned canvases laying around.
I wasn't planning on having a scene like this,
but when I saw the the lighting effect I chose this canvas for that reason.
For the reason that it fit the lightning effect.
I’ll get more of this shadow in here. Okay,
I'll start working back into this shadow
as well. Here I need a little bit more reflected red light.
More light from the ground reflecting and the buildings reflecting up into the under side
of this roof and it's kind of a warm reflected light there.
It’s creating something, a very kind of warm shadow.
And warm shadow, I'm saying warm shadow,
but that's relative to the shadow here.
So relative to this shadow, this shadow is little bit warmer.
And this one's even warmer relative to that one because there's more warm reflected light off
the roof here. That's not even though these things are all
more or less the same thing, they’re shadows on the building.
They're all slightly different. And I want to make sure I get a difference between this
and this. And in this case
it's the background building shadow is a little bit lighter, a little bit more orange red.
This one is a little bit darker, has more darker accents in it,
and it's a little bit more of a cool green by comparison.
actually right now I've seen them noticing this might be a minor detail and I should
probably save it for later,
but I want to get some of these tiles.
Just the edge of these tiles that I can barely see.
I want to get them in there.
That will kind of break up the - it’ll kind of give more depth between these two buildings
hopefully. Okay, I think I'm looking at the mirror.
There’s a lot of things I need to work on right now.
I need to get more interested in more things happenening in this little doorway.
I need to probably get a few clouds in there right now because these are jumping
out, it’s just too orange, these spots that I have left.
And that I need to get back to this color of eventually.
I'll be more specific about it.
I think I might start here.
That might be, besides the tower, this might be the place where the eye goes.
There's a path that goes to this little doorway.
And so I'm going to spend a little bit of time and get more detail and
some shapes and specific colors in that area because I think it might be one
of the areas of Interest.
It's another spot where there's some really nice greys.
This lintel right here is a nice grey.
It’s a serene stone, a pietra serena, very typical of Tuscan building this type of
stone. So I'm getting a little bit tired standing out here in the sun and I've
got to make sure that I don't start repeating too many shapes,
I don't get caught up in making repetitive patterns or making things too similar.
I need to keep struggling to get the differences between things
and keep on looking at the bigger picture. This would be a good spot to
get a lot of variety of color and and shape so I might have a few
Stones here that are more yellowish, more red or gray.
I think this would probably be a good place to pick out some of those different
stones and textures because it can be
a nice place to have more interest. I'll get out my red brick brush.
And the tone of the canvas is already carrying the value.
I'm just a varying that a little bit.
In some places I'm going to leave the canvas, some places I’m going to put down,
scrub something in, paint back into it,
leave it. I want to get a lot of variety.
So there I’ve just kind of put down a general color and I can take my
grey stone color and I can come back in
and maybe add a little bit of variety
into that and I might take my shadow color and suggest a few bricks or rocks
even here, the stone wall. The wall are so interesting because they're made out of old buildings and
just pieces of probably another old building.
Just stones and bricks all mixed in. There’s some nice contrast on this wall.
And there's a principle that I'm trying to remember which is more variety of color and
value within any mass will bring that mass forward.
So ideally I want to have the most - if I think about the side of this building
I want to have the most variety there and probably the least in the tower because
to be more of a center of Interest.
I think the silhouette of this tower against the sky already gives it enough interest.
I don't really need to go into the surface detail there.
But here it's kind of nice to have more contrast both color and value to
bring that forward a little bit. I’m gonna try to do the same in the grass.
And I think it’s probably time to get some of the shadow grass color going because that's one
of the farthest things behind
at this point. And I’m also thinking about what is Illuminating this shadow right here and
what it is, it's the sky mostly that's eliminating the shadow.
The sky is not, like I said before, a really clear deep blue.
It's more of a grey blue.
So on a clearer day this shadow would be more blue.
But today it's a little bit -
it’s more of a white light that's Illuminating this shadow. I’m going to keep that in mind.
And I've already decided on more or less the position of that shadow, I’m not going to
chase it even though it continues to grow.
I am looking though. I'm looking at the shape of the path right now
and I don't want to mirror that with the shadow shape so I might - I
actually might at this point change that shadow because I don't want to be the same
zigzag as the as the path so I might extend the shadow a little bit.
And right now it's kind of zig-zagging the opposite way of the path,
I just don't want it to mirror that.
Or not mirror, I don't want to follow the same angles as the path.
So the path has this kind of angle here and that was looking too similar
So break that up a bit.
the sky in earlier on, they were a little bit smaller.
And so I'm going to just paint in a few clouds
based on more or less how it was when I got here.
Just to cover up some of this orange as well will help.
And these clouds are nice because they're a completely different
texture and shape to the rest of the painting.
So I want to take advantage of the fact that they're not square and angular.
And they are a little bit more regular than everything else.
But mostly I just want to get something in there to give a little bit more interest
to that part of the painting.
I think I should probably get some of that dead tree in there before too long
because that's quite an interesting shape.
And this is feeling a little bit empty here.
I've got tons of stuff to work on and the light is actually starting to change
quite a bit here. Get some more of these rocks here.
Stopping to get some of that tree in there.
The tree is kind of a grey as well.
These parts of it are. I’ll just try to get some of the main branches going.
I’ve got to make a decision too, there's a little tree here.
And I might want to put a little bit of that in.
But I've got to make a decision about how much to put in.
I think it's kind of nice, it adds to the sort of feeling that it's overgrown
a little bit. Looks like an apple tree.
So I'll get some of these leaves and shadow and I might put a
few in, a few leaves in light too. Might break up this shadow a bit.
And it looks like it's really cloudy enough now,
so I don't know how much longer I'm going to paint on this today.
Take another look at the shape of this tower.
I think probably is one of the furthest things behind now, I haven't worked on it in a while, it’s
one of the first things I worked on.
Probably time to look at it again.
Actually, I think this might be a good place to to leave it for the day
because the light effect has changed quite a bit. Not only the shadows moving across but
also it has started to cloud up a lot and it's just such a different effect now,
I think I might be better off leaving it like this, letting it dry overnight, and
coming back tomorrow or whenever there's a similar weather at this time of day.
It’ll also give me a chance just to come back to it with fresh eyes.
So at this point it's a start and I think the effect is there
and it’s at agood point for me to leave it and move on another day.