Join Will Kemp for an in-depth discussion in this video What makes an attractive picture?, part of Drawing Foundations: Sketching the Landscape.
- There are a few key principles that are essential to make a successful landscape drawing, and they're different than the priorities that you'd have if you were just drawing a still-life at home. When you're drawing a still-life, everything is contained and quite easy to see in front of you. Whereas when you're drawing a landscape, you've got to actually guide the viewer through your drawing to get them to focus on what you want them to look at. The key word to remember when drawing landscapes is to be selective.
You've got to ask yourself the question, "Do I have to include everything that's in front of me "in the view?" More often than not, the answer is, no. You've got to decide what to leave in and what to leave out, and what will create the most compelling drawing. What I'm going to do now is introduce you to these seven key principles. We will be referring back to these throughout the practical drawing demos, to see how these concepts relate to an actual drawing: proportion and scale, composition, light and shadow, changing your viewpoint, how to frame your view, choosing a focal point, and drawing with the final result in mind.
If you want to achieve the illusion of depth in your landscape, you have to include a variety of scale. When you have two objects that you know are the same size in reality, but these then appear differently in scale in your drawing, our minds instantly tell us that there's space and distance between them, they recede into the background. Proportion goes hand in hand with scale. It makes a landscape drawing look believable because even if you've drawn something further into the distance, that's in scale, if the proportion is out within that object, the illusion of reality is lost.
The same level of care and attention that you put into the foreground and the focal point, you still need to put into the objects that are far into the distance in your drawing. You'll often see a drawing where there's a small house in the distance that is accurately in scale, but has out-of-proportion windows or doors. This ruins the effect. Composition is the art of arranging elements within a frame to create a visual harmony and a sense of balance in your scene.
Good composition encourages and leads the viewer's eye into the drawing, moves that eye around the scene with a rhythm and a flow. Being aware of how light is affecting a scene is key for you to be able to create a compelling drawing. Having strong contrasting values, a really light tone, some strong dark tones, then the mid-tones, all help to give you a sense of depth. Using these contrasting values can really help to add variety and distance into your sketches.
Where you sit or stand when you create your drawing is one of the most important decisions to make. It may seem obvious, but, more often than not, people go with the first viewpoint that presents itself to them. If you lower your viewpoint, or walk around a corner, or get into an uncomfortable position that you're viewing from, this can make such a difference and help you find a better scene within the existing view.
When you're looking for the right composition, just having a viewfinder to actually look through can really help. The first decision is often one of the format to use. Are you gonna work within a square or a rectangle? A portrait orientation or a landscape orientation? Having a physical viewfinder for you to look through, can just really help with this decision-making process. Deciding what you want the viewer to focus on will help you construct a composition that supports your vision.
If you want the viewer's eye to meander through the scene, you need to design it so there's diagonal lines to gently guide the viewer's eye through. By thinking about your focal point, alongside all of the other elements we've discussed, will give you a really good solid foundation to start your drawing from. Also, before you sketch anything, just have a think about what the final result you want from your sketch is. Are you sketching to create a reference for a painting that you're gonna be working on in the studio, or you've just seen a detail of something that really sparks your interest? Maybe you're just drawing to relax and unwind.
Giving yourself permission to just sketch will enable you to become freer in your marks, and engage in the process more. Here is when you begin to bend some of those rules and just enjoy the process.
- Assembling your materials
- Integrating proportion, scale, and light
- Thinking inside a frame
- Drawing with depth
- Sketching with a painting in mind
- Capturing changing conditions
- Drawing rocks, buildings, trees, and more
- Creating mood and atmosphere
- Putting it all together in the studio