LIVE 6 Ideas for Creating More Dramatic Landscapes: Painting Composition & How to Start a Painting

Hi- This is Dena Tollefson. Hey welcome to my studio and thank you for
joining me! I am excited today because we have a really good
topic- how to compose a painting. How to start and design a painting, how to
create a landscape painting which is more dramatic and more successful. It is important to have a good design when
you first start your painting, I am going to take you through all the steps of how to
do this. How to start your painting, what to do, that
kind of thing. I have 6 ideas for compositions I am going
to show you. Thank you for joining. So today’s topic is going to be a good one
that hopefully is helpful to you. To start, I have acrylic paint. This can be done with acrylic, with oil, with
watercolor, colored pencil, anything like that. I have a palette knife and some small little
brushes. Thank you for everyone who is joining. It is great to have you here. I have American Painter brushes- a size 10,
this is called a chisel blender, a couple of those, and filberts. I picked those out of my little stash of brushes-
my small brushes. So I’m picking these sizes of brushes because
normally I try to work with larger brushes- as large as possible, in a small space. So I have these medium sized ones because
the subject is a small size. American Painter filberts, and these filberts
are called filberts because of the round edge. Size 12 and a size 10. The 10 is the smaller and the 12 is the bigger
guy. Alright. Very good. Let me show you a little bit about the colors. In doing a design, when you lay out your design
for your painting, something to really think about is trying to connect your darks and
connect your lights. So I have mixed up a dark, dark, dark color for
landscape. And that is a combination of this yellow-
we only have a few colors today- So I have got primary yellow, phthalo blue red shade
(my husband’s favorite), yellow ochre, titanium white, and mars black. The colors we are going to use- just mixed
up a super dark green we will use. We will use this light blue for the sky, and
we will use this green that you see here. This green was mixed with yellow- the primary
yellow and a little touch of mars black and some of the titanium white. Alright. So let’s get started. The key here when you are laying out a painting
or starting a painting is thinking about getting as much drama as you can in that painting
and then just developing it from there. And some of these design ideas here- I am
not toning this canvas, I am going to use it just plain white. This is just a little canvas board a little
11 by 14. And you can make your own versions of this
and I encourage you to do that because it is a neat way you can just kind of keep these
in your studio. And you can do a- when you do this, lay in
a little low horizon in here. This first one is going to be what we call
a “sky painting”. These little sketches like this- these are
called “thumbnail sketches”. What is nice about a thumbnail sketch is it
is just a fast little thing and when you are done, you can save it and if you run out of
ideas of what to work on, then you can just pull out your thumbnail sketch ideas and you
are good to go. I have some water here, a couple of containers. These are just old, recycled ice cream containers-this
is a sherbet you can tell we like to have our sweets. Sherbet and that kind of thing. I also have some paper towels that I am wiping
off on. In fact I am going to put this over here so
I can get my paper towels closer. There we go. Okay. So in a composition, when you are laying this
out, the idea would be that- ideally you don’t put you paint with a horizon in the very center. You want to either pick something lower or
something higher. Now when you pick something lower, like we
are doing here, then what ends up happening is you get what is favoring the sky, or a
sky painting. And so let’s get something going right here. Hey, great to see you, Brenda This one is going to be called- okay this
is called a Low Horizon or a “Sky” and it will have symmetrical balance. Now you might wonder, what is symmetrical
balance? And we will get into that. And you are a fan of sky paintings. Grae, I love to paint sky paintings. I think that they are just a lot of fun to
do, they are. What I like about a sky painting is there
is a lot you can do up here is in the sky, and the sky is really the focus, not necessarily
the ground. And the idea with painting a successful painting
is you decide- for example you know, deciding what to wear, and pick one focal point, am
I going to have jewelry be – like I have a bracelet and a ring, but I am not going to
have also 10 different necklaces on and have on earrings and the whole thing because you
want to pick what you are going to be focusing on. And that is true for a painting too. You want to think about on your paintings,
think about what do you want your focal point to be? And it is important to to pick that. Then work with that and stay with that. So here would be an example – you can see
we already have a start with just putting in black and white and you can do a painting
with just only black and white. Now this is not actually black and white,
it is black plus yellow- a little bit of yellow. I am going to do these and show you how in
really 4 colors- this is the “U” shape- see the U. I am going to accentuate that a little bit
more. This is a U shaped composition. Okay. What is neat about just doing it in black
in white, getting the black and white started first is if you do that, then what will happen
is you will find- notice how all the darks are connecting. If you do that, you will find it much easier
to take the painting and the finesse it from there. Another words, adding other colors, other
shapes, that kind of thing. See how that is all connecting and when we
connect them, then our eye- what our eye wants to do- is it wants to go in and understand
something. So our brain and our eyes- even on super complex
paintings, you and take any of these and make them extremely complex, but what happens is
we do that, our eye, it makes our brain happy because we can see a simple shape. There is something very pleasing about that. So this is a high horizon, this is more a
of a “land” painting, and it has asymmetrical balance. Thinking about a horizon, so here is the low
horizon, and you can see that the sky, it is more about the sky, and here, you can really
put your horizon wherever you want. If you want you can have your horizon like up here and just a little
bit of sky and almost all land. But here this is really going to be a painting
more about the land. And there are so many variations, and different
types of compositions that you can do, I am just showing a few that I personally like
to do- some favorites of mine. You may recognize- if you are familiar with
my work, you will recognize some of these compositions. This are ones I use all the time. I am varying the colors, varying all these
other things this is how a person starts the painting and you kind of go from there. If you go back and study some of the Old Masters,
especially the Baroque Period, they were really amazing at doing these compositions. They really focused on that. The composition, when you thing about it,
you really have a dark , you have a light, and you have a medium color. When you do that, that is really all you need
in a painting and anything you add beyond that is just detail. So this one is going to be a “S” shape, and
as I put the other colors on, you will see how these work out. Hi Swapna- how are you?Thank you for joining
and that you also thank you for everyone who is joining in. I appreciate the likes you give. I appreciate any likes- that is always a nice
thing. Now this next one- this one is one that I use tons
of times in my work. If you think about a low horizon over here
and then a high horizon which is really focusing on the land, this is a composition that I
use when I am doing my Pond Series paintings. And with that I am making a shape, and it
really is when you are looking at the land and you don’t see any sky, only see maybe
reflection of the sky. But you only see really abstract shapes of
the darks and that kind of thing but they are all contained within a pond. This shape is called – thank you for saying
that – so this composition is called a “C” shape
and the C because it forms the letter C and the light and all the things you do with the
composition promote this idea of a C. With the U shape the U- an inverted U and an upright
U it is just really if you think about turning it on its side.The C shape is a very powerful
composition that you can do. This next one, the last one that we are going
to do today- dipping my brush in the water, okay and this one- get a little
dark going here- so this one is what we call – there is a combination on this one- the
Cruciform plus a Diagonal. So Diagonals are really important- any time
you can incorporate a diagonal in your work, that is always a good and powerful thing to
do in your composition. Diagonals lead the eye across and especially
with landscape work, it is important to get diagonals. So I am going to be adding in a diagonal then
of dark. So I have our darkest color marked in. If you are painting along with me, here is
my dirty water here- if you are painting along with me, then put your darks in first, that
is a nice, easy way to get it all started. I could use the same brush or I could go with
a different brush. I am going to grab a clean one. I am going in now and add the light colors. Oh Brenda, you don’t see the “S” in the S
shape. Okay. Brenda, what is going to happen is when I
put the ground in, you will see I am going to create a serpentine or a S with the way
the light goes. So be watching for that when that happens. You can also think of this as some curving,
S shapes as opposed to just straight lines. Kind of undulating is the S shape. See how these marks are more upright, these
are more upright, and these are more of a curve. That is a great question. Thank you for asking that, Brenda. When you go in and actually I will us a little
larger brush here. When you are painting, it is important to
have the shape already in your mind what you would like to do for the painting. Now the other big, important thing on any
kind of a landscape composition is the value. The value of the paint or the colors if you
are painting or your colored pencil, watercolor, that type of thing the thing that is key is
the value. Let me show you what I mean. I will set this guy over here. So here is the value scale. You may have seen me talking about the value
scale on other videos. So the values go all the way from 1, 2, 3,
4 , 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. And it is really the key to a successful painting-
your values. What values you are using. The rule is let me show you what- I am going
to grab a piece of paper. This is a little piece of gessoed canvas I
am just going to write on here and show you. What you want to do is you want to think about
the value scale like this. Think about 5 equal pieces 1 2 3 4 5, 1 2
3 4 5 kind of equal and think about the value scale if you laid it all the way flat. You have got dark all the way to your light. So this is going to be a value 10 which is
light, and this is value 1, which is black. What you want to do is your sky to be here. The sky always needs to be the lightest color
possible. If you look at the sky, the sky is always
super, super light relative to the land. Your land is going to be here. You sky is going to be here. And then your trees and verticals need to
be darks. If you can keep always this form. So if this is black, and this is white, and
the values are moving all along here, and you want this to be so here is your black,
here is your white, and here is your like that. And then you get all the way over to just
white with this gray scale. So this gray scale- does that makes sense,
guys? You want to have your sky.. Oh and you know what I did? Oh no! Whoops! Actually it is the opposite. Oh no. It is the opposite. This – let me re-do it. So this is your gray scale. This is the white, and this is the black. Whoo! That was a problem. Okay- here is your sky, and it needs to be
in the light colors, your trees, and vertical elements need to be here in the blacks and
then things like the land and water need to be in the middle values. Hopefully that made sense. He he okay. So I will show you what I mean by how we do
that in paint. Let me get you the paint and show you that. That was kind of crazy. My goodness, we have the gray scale all flipped
on its side. So in the darks, for example, I am going to
get this up really close so you can see. If you peek through there, you can see that
this really dark color that I have got here is almost a 1 or a 2. Almost black. And it makes sense, yes, Grae, exactly. And this sky color that we are using – do
you see how much lighter that is if you peek through and look at your gray scale, and you
can see that the color is almost- squint at it- that is about a 9, maybe an 8 about a
9 on the scale. And white, of course, here is white. White is a 10. Here is black. And black is a 1. Now the grass color or the ground is going
to be more one of these middle shades. So if you squint and look at that, we have
got probably 7 and for that grass color we have about a 4 or 5, something like that. So when you mix your colors and you plan your
painting ahead, you want to be thinking about that. Be very conscious
to have enough variety, and have them connecting. Let me show you what I mean by that. So I will get another one of these scrap gessoed
canvases here, and if I was to just draw two compositions, let’s say I wanted to do two
of them. Let’s just say I took- and say oh I love this
blue, so let me pick this blue, and I paint a blue sky, and then let’s say that I wanted
do some green grass, so I am just going to grab some green and just paint a green like
that, and the colors are pretty, but what happens is if I put some trees in and so now
let me put some trees, along at the edge at the top. What happens is it just is kind of blah. And that is because we don’t have enough values. So instead if I say I want to have a blue
sky and if I go in and do a lighter blue, a blue that is closer to white, closer t the
value of white on the scale, see that this blue is closer to light colors? So if I get enough blue sky like that and
then if I pick a land color that is going to be maybe something like this, all of a
sudden this is already more dynamic. Let me just get this in here. What if I did now a dark color, a super dark
color almost black to create something dynamic. And just put in you know, some trees. Like that. There. And then went in and soften the edge. You can see that is all of a sudden a more
dramatic painting. And it is the start of something. By choosing our values, just softening the
edge, I will soften the edge on this side too just to be fair to this guy. Soften this transition. But you can see between option 1 and option
2 this one is going to make a more successful painting-this guy here. Let’s give him a smiley. Let’s give him a little smiley. And this one here is kind of meh. It is kind of like nothing exciting is happening
with this. This kind of a thing- you can just change
this and you can now add other elements in it – do whatever you want and all of a sudden
you start to get a dynamic thing but if I did the same thing, now let me add a tree
in that same green , just add a green over here, what is happening is I am just kind
of chasing colors. Because I don’t have the -thank you!- and
so you see that by having the right values all of a sudden we can make a really dynamic
composition. So it is the value and it is the shapes. So and you might wonder why am I leaving a
gap between the blue sky and then the land. I am just leaving a little bit, We are going
to get this color going here in the C shaped. Also while I am painting this, I am going
to give you an update on Featherston Turkey. Featherston is kind of bullied by the other
turkeys, which is a problem. He is a male turkey and he is okay. This is our sky color and if we go back in
and instead just soften that with white we can make it even more dramatic. We can be as dramatic as possible, and that
is always a good thing. I know that the internet is slow, if you are
having the same problem. Buffering, exactly. Yeah, I am buffering too, Grae. That is just- nothing can be done. Alright. now that we have our light area and our darkest
area, now the important thing is the in-between colors. So a common thing that people will have a
tendency to do is they will go- so let’s say we wanted this to be water. And then maybe have some land here. So I am going with a land mass here. Get a little bit of this going. And I am going to do a diagonal, because diagonals
are always a good thing in paintings. Get a little diagonal shape going here. But if I wanted to do this as water, I would
be safe doing this as my water color. Work with your landscape otherwise the water
will not be convincing. These little composition sketches are called
thumbnail sketches. They are called a thumbnail sketch because
they are small. You can always modify them. Good to see you, Donna, by the way! Thank you everybody for joining and I appreciate
any likes you give. No that we have this little guy is now in
the U shape. We say that it is going to be symmetrical
and balanced with the forms we add. All of this, really, the composition adding
more detail and finessing it until it looks how you want. So this paper towel- let’s move him over here. And start a new one. When you are doing this composition, if you
have darker green in the very front of the painting, even on still life it is good to
add a dark diagonal to the front of the painting. What this does it it pushes your attention
to the inside of the painting. When you are working on your painting , however,
I will show you I am going to take some of this green and just make a dark statement
up here. A diagonal. And just kind of get a shape going like that. And the front. This can all be done in reds, oranges, I am
choosing traditional landscape colors for this but it can be done in any colors. Here is the light area diagonal. You can just kind of work with diagonals. Someone who was really good with diagonals
was Grant Wood. If you are familiar with Grant Wood, he is
from Iowa, also, known for Iowa landscapes. So you can see if you get a strong diagonal
there, touch up our horizon over there. There we are. Make a little serpentine form, anything with
animals. Going now with on the value scale a bridge
between the super dark value we had and the light. It is always nice to include water in a painting. So again, a sky with this super-light color
then I have to use a darker blue for the water. For landscapes, you want to be sure the water
is always darker than our sky. And if we don’t make it darker, then it will
not be convincing. Alright, so let’s work now on this high horizon,
the water in here. I am imagining the Everglades, or a swamp
or something like that. This is a composition method to draw the eye
in. This is Dena Tollefson, and I want to thank
you for joining me and please subscribe to my channel. Until next time, bye ye


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