Painting approaches to the Landscape

There is no right or wrong way to paint a landscape.

I have been painting the landscape for more years than I would like to admit and I find myself “thinking”  much much more now than I ever did before  As a student my time was very limited and each painting session had a distinct purpose.  That purpose was to get something down quickly so that I would have work to present for upcoming critiques.  I still think if one is to be successful at “capturing a moment in time”  it is necessary to develop skills that facilitate a quick impression. This is the main goal of painting in the field.   Don’t rush in too fast. Think first, plan the composition, draw in loosely, break down values, then my advice is to paint like hell before the light changes and if the light does change stick with your first impression. It is impossible to chase the light.

Two contemporary painters whom I admire are Mitchell Albala and Walt Gonske. They are very different in their approaches and their imagery could not be more different. Both are passionately involved in interpreting the landscape in very different ways.

Mitchell Albala is a wonderful painter and instructor. His landscapes possess an ethereal light. They are at once abstract and representational. His forms dissolve and are united through an all encompassing color field. According to Mitchell he says, “A painting can reach a viewer in different parts of their mind. One part responds to things we can name like houses, trees, clouds, and the narrative itself. Another part responds to abstract aesthetics such as color, shape, or movement. This is the part of the mind I want to reach. I consider a picture most successful when the viewer is struck by the by these aesthetics before they recognize the actual subject.
Mitchell has a great book called “Landscape Painting : Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice”

Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice

Check out Mitchell Albala’s blog. It is very informative

Mitchell Albala, “Ballard Bridge” oil on canvas (30×22)
Mitchell Albala, “High Road Toward Sunset” (12×12)

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is the great New Mexico painter, Walt Gonske. I have admired Walt’s work for years.  When you stand in front of a Gonske you feel like the paint is moving. The juicy, brushy, gestural strokes and strong chroma colors make for a very lively painting. His approach to painting : Walt says to loose control “My best work comes when I’m able to give up control, to trust my impulses. Then the painting takes on a life of its own. When I don’t know what is going to happen next, the process becomes full of surprise and wonder.”

Walt Gonske

Walt Gonske, “Montecito Canyon” (24×30)

Two very different painters whose working methods support the images they are after. I guess the best advice to any kind of painting is just to simply keep painting and you will ultimately find out what methods works best for you.

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