- Lesson Details
This scene of rocks and trees, overlooking a creek, was done it the late afternoon. This had its own special challenges, considering the location was in a canyon. The light was changing fast, so it was painted without as much time spent on locking in composition. As painters, we are always weighing our options. If more time was spent, the entire canyon would have been in shadow.
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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I’m perched on a rock, it's a beautiful composition.
So I took the time to set up my easel out on this rock.
So I'm going to try to get the - I'm going to try to get the river
in there, I’m going to try to get these two trees going.
And the sun is coming around and the whole back mountain will start to go into
shadow. So I want to work quickly and get everything down.
And like always I'll start with the composition.
drawn out. I want to go all the way up to this mountain
and get some sky and I need to get the creek in there as well.
So I'm just trying to get the main lines and main angles
and not get caught up in the details right now.
And some really nice clouds right now and let's start thinking about placement of clouds even
now. I might suggest - start to suggest - a little bit of tone.
But I'm not really going to go for the
the value that I want at the end.
Just as I'm putting the lines out,
I want to start thinking about the values
and start thinking about what's in shadow and what's in the light.
I’ll do a couple comparative measurements.
I might be able to move this tree over in just a little bit of and angle it
more. I want to make sure these trees are very different from one another.
Really beautiful cloud shadow going over now.
Okay. So I've got the main lines drawn out.
Maybe a few more lines.
There’s a bush over here, another tree here. And I'll finish drawing in this really nice
blue rock. I'm just putting on a little bit of tone to suggest
shadow but not really going for a shadow value.
Just a few of these branches are
I'm going to start mixing up the masses.
And start working quickly because things are changing very quickly.
So I'm going to mix up something for the ground plane, something for the slanted plane,
probably two slanted planes, some upright planes.
I’ll start putting in some of the sides of these trunks right away because they're
going to turn more in the shadow as the sun rolls around.
All right, so I'm just going to make myself a little plan of it, little thumbnail
plan so I don't get lost.
I want to break everything down into about
seven masses so trying to just simplify everything.
And come up with a simple plan so I don't get lost.
So in this case the lightest
thing is going to be the clouds and the side of the tree trunks.
And I'll just start from lightest to darkest.
And a few these rocks are also pretty light right now.
Then I'll paint the sky,
which is the next value down. So this is good for me to do just so
I don't get lost when I'm doing the bigger canvas.
Okay. I'll mix up something for the ground plane.
The ground plane is roughly -
it’s nearly as light as the middle ground hill,
but the middle ground hill is just slightly darker,
and I know that it's going to be going more and more into shadow.
So I’ll make that slightly darker and the background mountain is roughly the same too, it's just a
color change mostly. I'm looking at the water.
The water is also roughly the same value
as the background hill, it's just a little bit more
orangey. And a few shadows. So the shadow of the rock is fairly light
and so are the shadows on the tree trunks. And there’s some shadow on the
water that's just slightly darker.
There’s also a few leaves being illuminated here
that are just a little bit lighter than the middle ground hill.
So I think with that I've got a value plan.
And I'm going to jump into the bigger painting now.
And there's a really nice cloud shadow right now that I want to capture.
This is a very kind of dark
deep blue violet. So that's the shadow of a cloud on a distant hill.
Which is moving very fast.
I’m gonna put down some of these trunks just so I know how light I can go.
Okay I’m gonna mix up the the back hill.
It's a bit too dark.
And I'm going to try not to fill everything in or paint it too solidly
because I want to be able to paint back into it a little bit.
I'm also going to try to increase the color intensity as I come forward.
And start thinking a little bit about the form of the mountain.
And I'm going to jump down here to the creek because the shadow is really starting
to move across the creek.
And I want to make sure I get some of it in light.
So some of the water that's in shadow is what I'm putting on now.
Maybe I'll get this big rock in.
I'm trying to get some of the shadow in there.
And I better get something down for the ground plane.
Try to get all the pieces moving here.
I really like these leaves against them dark shadow.
So I put a few in before they disappear into the shadow.
I'm trying to simplify all the masses because I just don't have time to
go through detail by detail.
I’m trying to get to the effect of light.
And I'm going to get some of the creek in there because that is quickly moving
into shadow. Get some more variety in the ground plane and shadow.
I’ll get two colors going, one more of a violet and one of them more
of a green. Both of them should still feel like they're in the shadow
family. Go back to my rock shadow brush for a minute.
Okay. I'm also going to mix up a sort of gray or violety grey for
the middle ground. So now the middle ground,
I've got a green average and a violety grey average.
And I’ll use is two different brushes, one for each.
I put the color on the canvas and I just ask myself does it need
to be more orange, more red, more blue?
Does it need to be lighter or darker?
And I adjust from there.
Get some of these dead bushes back here.
a little bit. I got a lot of canvas to cover still.
I’m gonna step back.
I’m gonna scrub this tree in. It’s a little bit more orange than
the one next to it.
And I might just paint the shadow right into that.
I'll just make all these upright lights, sunlights now.
Okay starting to come together.
I've got more shadow to do especially in this tree up here.
And I’ll just kind of scrub that in for now.
I’ll paint into it later.
I’ll just scrub the whole thing in.
So I'm trying to get the shadow to move -
to fall off as it moves back into space. So I’m lightening it,
making less contrast, less variety and I'm trying to find a connected shape.
A connected shape of shadow.
I'm just going to carve some holes into this tree
and leave the shadow areas.
Get the reflected light here in the trunk, all this very orangy shadow.
Okay. So at this point I've got all of the main masses blocked in or scrubbed
in. And I'm going to take the remaining portion of the session just to refine some
of the shapes and work within the masses that I already have down.
I don't really need to change the values of the colors much at this point.
It's more about refining some of the rough shapes that I've established.
So here I’ve just got I got this tree a little bit too straight.
I’m just going to move the top of it over a tiny bit.
That's fine I'll come and cut into it with the sky brush.
I might want to drop this mountain down,
but I'm not sure right now.
And I might want to raise this mountain up.
I think I will just a little bit here.
I’m gonna start refining some of these shapes and get some of the shadows that are
here that now have shadows on them.
And I’m gonna try to step them off into the distance.
So the shadows will change in color, they’ll get a little bit bluer and should get a little
bit lighter as they go back.
And I'm trying to refine some of the the shapes a bit more.
And here I'm trying to get some of the underlying twigs.
They’re just a more grey color.
And then I'll try to put the green back on top of it.
And I'm kind of doing - I’m kind of making this up because it's all in shadow
now where before it wasn't.
And I’m gonna get some of these twigs as well
coming off of this tree. This brush down here. Another tree that will kind of break the
line of that mountain, which is nice.
Just to break that up a bit.
And there's a few trunks over here that I'm going to try to get in.
I might even move it over just a little bit.
A few rocks up here. A few rock back there. Here,
I want to get a sort of a zigzag going back
from the creek, coming in,
going back, and back up this hill.
Okay, I'm missing a lot of information, a lot of details.
This area seems to be the furthest behind to me.
So I'm going to introduce some
violets and dark violets into the shadow. So just about all of the masses in
the scene, because it's springtime,
there's dead branches and then there's new leaves and so there's a sort of a violet
and green always going on and so I’m gonna get more violets in here.
Then I’ll get some greens going against this rock.
Okay I’m gonna stand back, take a look.
Okay, so I've done a little over an hour on this.
I've got all of the main masses set up now.
And I'm gonna think about wrapping it up for the day, the lights changed a lot.
And I've got a lot of paint on the canvas, it would be nice to let the
paint dry and come back with fresh eyes and start afresh another day.
I've got a painting that I started the other day, a quick sketch.
I've got it back out.
I want to see what I can do with it.
I want to try to clean it up a little bit, clarify the effect of light a
bit and I'm going to start by just looking at the scene, looking at my painting,
and coming up with a strategy of what I want to do today.
Okay. So one thing I want to do is I think I want to clarify the
shape of the creek. The shape I have is not very interesting and I think I
could increase this angle more how I see it now in nature and I
think that will bring the creek back into the painting a little bit.
I also want to look at the at the big angle of this mountain.
I think maybe this mountain is too high and this angle could be a little bit
steeper. I also want to get some of the light on the far side of
the creek before it goes into shadow.
So I think I'm going to - I'm going to mix up sort of mud color and
just do a little bit of redrawing and kind of go back to step one for
a couple minutes. I want to increase this angle of a side of the
creek, so I want to make this a little bit steeper through here.
I'll bring this up a bit.
And I'm going to bring the creek up a little bit as well.
A little bit like starting over but I've got a lot of information down already.
I want to see what I can use from the start last week.
And so I’m just making a few indications.
Might bring this up a bit,
too. I took a few proportional measurements, comparative measurements.
I also want to get some of the cast shadow of this tree.
And I think actually there are more leaves this week.
So it's been a few days since I was last at this location and the leaves have
kind of popped out a little bit more.
So I'll get some of that shadow in.
I’m gonna look at these
bushes again. Maybe raise this one up a bit.
So I’m basically redrawing. And I want to raise this rock up a little bit as well.
I didn't place it very well last time.
I might even redraw this tree a bit.
And I missed the sort of gesture or snap of this tree
last time. I think I rushed it too much.
Okay I’m gonna try to see a little bit of the creek beyong this little island
here. See how it comes out.
Right here, move this little knob up.
A little bit more cast shadow.
I want to get more light on to this bank eventually.
Okay, I'm looking at the angle of the back
mountain. I think it's going to be a little bit steeper.
So that's good. I think it'll help the picture to bring this down a little
bit and bring this down a bit.
I'm just going to take a comparative measurement,
redraw this angle, and I want to make this a little smaller, this mountain.
It just looks too big.
Okay, I’m gonna look for a few
placements of a few key trees. And then I got to start painting quickly because everything's
moving already. It's a really quick effect because it's already late in the afternoon.
I’m just going to outline this tree a bit.
Another rock or two. Do another comparative measurement, doing the rock size which I'm happy with
to the placement of this tree.
I think I got to move it up a bit,
which is good. It'll push it back in the background.
Then I might just start outlining some of these shadows too because I like the
placement of them right now.
I’ll move this tree back a little bit.
I like it back here a bit more.
Okay so I’ve just kind of redrawn everything.
I want a few clouds in there too, they’re really nice today.
And a couple more lines and I'll be ready to paint.
Okay. I’m gonna start with this creek area because I think it's important.
I want to get some light on it on the far side right away.
Mix up a couple rock colors. And I’m keeping in mind that the ground plane is
the lightest plane in the picture. Okay I’m gonna mix up something for the water.
Some of these shadows can stay, some of them I'm going to get rid of.
Okay, that’s a bit more organized now.
Okay mix up the ground plane a bit.
The greens and the sort of dead grass on the far side of the
creek. And again, I'm going to cover up some of the shadow that I laid down
Okay, that's a little bit stronger already,
I think. Just pull out the mirror, check my design with fresh eyes.
I’m gonna get some of those clouds going while they're still there.
And they're not quite the lightest thing but nearly. Key them down a little bit.
And I think I've to key the sky down.
So the blue that I came up with last time
is too light. An I might as well mix up my sky right away.
I'm looking for a slightly darker
blue. Okay, that's better.
I'll get more contrast in the sky
light that. Okay, that's better.
I got a little bit more contrast there.
And I'll just put a few spots up here
and come back to that later.
Okay I’m gonna right away mix up some of the ground plane greens
and get those going. Get the new shape of the creek
defined. Then I’ll just jump across the creek and do the same thing, get some of these
greens going. And I'll probably have to darken the rock down to get this contrast
that I want. And I’ll go for some of the bushes as well.
I want these really light ones.
Making a few adjustments to the creek.
I want to get a few cool sky reflections in it
before the whole thing goes into shadow.
This is the sky reflecting on to the creek.
And I'm just seeing hints of it here and there.
And maybe I need a few of those shadows going across the creek.
Here’s the shadow of the creek bank casting -
the shadow cast by the creek bank onto the water.
THere’s a little shadow back there
too. The little one right here, on to the water.
There goes another cloud. I want to get a few more rocks in
Along the creek, they’re very light in color, or light in value I should say.
And some of these rocks have reflections, which is
kind of nice to show that this is water.
So I'll make a little rock reflection.
Just to help show that
this is water. And I better get some of the idea of the water - this
running water idea. And I’m just going to pick out a few areas that have little bit of
Just a bit lighter. And maybe a bit redder.
I’m gonna get the top of this rock in.
Little sliver of light. I'm going to get some of the tree in as well.
A very light colored tree trunk. Especially this one because I placed it differently.
And maybe some of the main branches as well.
And this whole branch I want to move up a bit.
Okay. Alright I'm just going to take the shadow off of that mountain.
And just look at that color again.
I think I had too much yellow in that back mountain and it's going to help
now I'm putting a little bit this morning by violet grey
back there. And a little bit lighter.
Just to push it back into space a little bit.
Okay that's looking better. I’ve got to mix up a shadow now very soon.
Start working the shadow. So really what I want to do with the shadow ash
I want to design it a little bit better.
Trying to find a sort of zig zag pattern.
Just trying to find a way to design it, going
back to this tree.
And key up some of the lights.
I’ve got a slightly cooler green now that I'm using.
Just wanna key some of these lights up.
Trying to pick out a few
of these bushes. I might mix up a couple colors for the cast
shadow and for the shadow
of the trunk. Okay,
that's a little bit more shadow than I actually wanted. I’m gonna have to come back in here
with the ground plane and work back into that a bit.
Okay I've got to mix up the shadow soon.
I'll take another look at this rock now.
I think I'll try to key it down.
Get a few more of those rocks that are back there.
Okay I’m gonna try to define this,
the shadow edge a little bit. So figure out exactly where the shadow ends and the light
begins. I need a little bit of a cast shadow color.
Okay. Now the light effect is a little bit more clear there.
I gotta use this color to find this edge of the shadow a little bit
more. I'm painting the holes in the tree
now and just kind of of lightening up the background.
Okay the trunks are really looking to
dark now. I've got to work on those.
I’ve gotta get a better color there.
And one of them is a very orange, it's getting a lot of reflecting light off
the bank. But this one's very orange green.
It's almost the same value as the rock is just a bit more orangy.
This one starts off a bit orangey but then goes into a blue violet.
Really really blue, this one. It’s getting the sky reflections.
Okay, I want to finish defining this bank and the water shadow there
before that changes too much.
Just put a few more strokes on this
tree trunk. And maybe I'll get a few really warm under planes.
Like this one there’s this dark, warm under plane. I’ll just get a few of those started so
I don't forget about that.
Okay back to the bank.
And I've got to get the water -
the part of the water that's in shadow.
I need to really define that.
A bit here. This is also receiving those blue
sky reflections. And a little bit more orange here. I might have to pull some of that
water color back over that, work these together.
But I want a very strong division there.
Light and shadow. I need some sky reflections on the rippling part of the water. Put
part of this rock in shadow. And make a few rock reflections in the water.
I gotta get back up to the shadow.
Just define the shadow a little bit more on this oak tree.
Get some of these rocks.
A little bit more of the shadow going on.
The greenish part of this shadow.
Get that going. Now I’ll mix up some of these
sort of violety
color in the lights on the middle ground hill. I want to start to defining that
a little bit more. This whole scene is a series of violet and green.
Springtime. And I want to just pick out a few of these violets shapes.
Dead bushes I guess. I wanna put a few spots
of light on the oak tree here.
And I'm going to look at that shadow on the hill and try to unify it
a bit more, try to come up with an interesting shape that kind of runs up
the hill and connects to other shadows. Got to get
over to the the back hill.
I want to get some of the leaves first and I can paint around them.
Really yellowy orange things. Mix up a violety color for the shadow as well, a little bit more variety
in there. Violets and greens running everywhere. But I want to jump up to the hill
now and lighten it up a bit.
I'm trying to find some of these
distant trees. And right now I'm just picking up some of the light shapes.
I'm going to start lightening up the whole hillside a bit.
on the palette, the color -
and I'm using it for even this spot - if I compare that to my ground plane
or some of these foreground greens,
this is almost like a grey.
This is a completely dead color but back here
it still looks green.
Actually, maybe I'll just put a spot of that next to -
I’ll put a spot of the middle ground green right there and I'll mix up
a bit of that foreground green. You can see the difference.
So you can see there's that much fall off
from foreground to background or foreground to middle ground.
And there’s even more when you get up to the top of the mountain.
I’m gonna paint in now some of the the light on this oak tree.
And it's nearly the same color and same value as the background behind it.
Slightly darker and more variation. Just reinstating some of the shadows on this tree.
Okay let’s take a look. Take out the mirror.
Okay, this is starting to come together.
I'm really not happy with the foreground right now and I haven't dealt with this side
of the canvas. I’ll try to connect the shadows just a little bit more,
up this hillside. There’s a little tree or some brush right behind this tree.
Kind of tried to keep it out,
but now I want to put that in because I like how the branches are playing against
this shadow. I think I’m gonna have to
carve out another shape on this bank and just try to show that there's actually this is a
split in the river. And I need to add another rock or two here.
Just as a design I don't think it's working.
Okay I think it's a bit better.
I’m gonna get rid of some of this green here.
I'll gonna lighten this up, this whole area, and try to add a little bit of
structure to it. And add another rock down there on the corner.
There's a rock right there.
I'm just going to sort of move it over a tiny bit.
Actually it’s not that far actually.
Couple little rocks. I might just get rid of - I'm so unhappy with this cast shadow
that I put in before,
I might just get rid of it.
I'll have to come back to it next time.
Or try to paint it back in.
Let's get rid of that.
It's not helping anything right now.
It's okay. I just want this really light ground plane.
And I think I’ve got to just continue the stream back here and I'm kind of peeking around the corner and it does
continue back there. So I'm going to continue that idea of the stream
behind those bushes. And there’s some rocks back there.
And a bit of that ground plane.
So it’s really a braided stream.
There’s little Islands everywhere. Yeah that stream continuous right back there.
Back -that goes even - sort of starts running
out of the picture at some point.
So again, I'm back to that redrawing stage again.
Because I didn't plan it carefully enough,
I just jumped into it.
Which is okay, too. It’s better to jump into a painting and just do it than to
not do it. So I’ll just make a little island here
and bring a bit of shadow
back to this tree, this area.
So I can't - I haven't quite resolved this area.
I think I’m gonna get rid of the bush that was originally on this side of the picture.
It’s just not helping the design.
I'll get some of this lighter
colored tree going in there.
And I might get a few more rocks down here on this bank.
Just any excuse to lighten that up a bit.
And I'll have to throw the cast shadow on top of this stuff
later. And I’ve used up all of the white that I put out.
So I've done a lot of - quite a bit of painting.
There’s a few branches in here.
So I think I'll wrap that up for today.
Just about every inch of the canvas has wet paint on it.
I've sort of redrawn, recomposed, and rekeyed the painting. So I was able to use what
I had from my initial start
and try to approve it.
So right at the end there I tried to improve the composition just by
getting rid of there's a bush on the right side and I want to just run
the river all the way up
and include a little proportion of this river on this side,
so I'll have to come back to that next time.
But everything is I think it's improved the keying and the drawing of it. So I have to
come back next time with fresh eyes and take another look.
Alright I'm going to pack up.
Thanks for watching.
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1. Overview of the Scene52sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. Sketching in the Composition9m 35s
3. Blocking in the Masses28m 33s
4. Filling in the Back Hill26m 42s
5. How to Paint Trees into the Distance20m 23s
6. Clarifying the Composition19m 32s
7. Painting the Sky & Ground Plane13m 33s
8. Designing the Shapes18m 22s
9. Refining the Trees & Leaves21m 23s
10. Final Touches & Conclusion28m 29s
11. Time Lapse Progression15m 2s