Before you start your landscape painting, it's important that you've mapped it out in your head. You're effectively translating a 3D image on to a 2D canvas, so it's important that you know exactly what you're doing. If you look at a landscape closely and appreciate all of its different components, you'll find it a lot easier to translate effectively it on to your canvas. Your painting is a scaled-down version of the landscape, but the challenge is to keep all of the proportions as they are in real life.
Landscapes as jigsaws
Your painting is essentially like a jigsaw; it contains loads of different pieces that fit together. Before you get started on your painting, take a look at your landscape and visualise it as a large jigsaw made up of loads of different pieces. Breaking the landscape up in your mind helps you to realise how everything fits together. Non-artists tend to look at a landscape and see individual objects, but artists tend to look at how everything in a landscape comes together. To an artist, a landscape is a fusion of lots of different elements. The artist's job is to take the pieces apart, then recreate them on the canvas.
To help you visualise the different pieces of the landscape, go over the contours of each object with your eyes. This is something that I do all the time when working on landscape paintings. It really helps me appreciate the finer details of the landscape and it helps me see how everything fits together. Doing this also improves my hand-eye coordination skills - the better your hand-eye coordination skills, the more accurate and realistic your painting will be.
As well as visualising a landscape as a jigsaw, it also really helps to think about colours. Look at your landscape and see how all the different colours flow together to create the image. Once you've broken your landscape up into different pieces, see what colours belong to what pieces and make sure each colour stays within its boundary. For example, if you've singled out a tree as an object, make sure the brown of the bark stays within the contours of the tree - that is if you're going for an entirely realistic landscape painting. See what pieces have lighter colours and what pieces have darker colours, then reflect this in your painting.
Putting the pieces together
Taking a landscape apart in your mind really does help you to appreciate all of its finer details. It's a very helpful technique to split the landscape up, analyse each individual section, then put the pieces back together again in your painting. Doing this simple technique makes you see the landscape in greater detail, which will help make your painting more realistic and accurate.
Joanne Perkins is a Berkshire-based artist with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and specialises in painting Berkshire landscapes. She is happy to accept all queries and questions. For more information about Joanne, her work and her current projects visit: http://joannesberkshirescenes.com/default.aspx