Creating Eye-Catching Landscape Compositions

by Jollyon Hooley
(St Bernards)

"Rule of Thirds" kindly on loan from Wikipedia

The first job is to capture, in a thumbnail sketch, the basic three tones (or values) of your landscape. To sketch these thumbnails out, you will only use black, a mid-grey, and of course, the white paper.

This is where you note “the rule of thirds” as your focal point will be where the intersecting lines ( 2 vertical and 2 horizontal) meet. See illustration. You will have four points to choose from where your focal point will be placed.

You can have more than one focal point but stick to one initially.

It is relatively easy to guide the viewer of your painting anywhere across the canvas (I will show you how to do this in a later series).

So you have established in your thumbnail sketches where your centre of interest is going to be. At this focal point you can use either to maximize contrast with your tone/values, a hard edge, contrast of color, a hard intersecting line or lines and many other contrast effect that gets your eye to go there.

To put this in other words, if you have a blank sheets of white paper and place a black dot anywhere on that sheet, your eye will immediately go there—same thing with a photo of a person on a page with all text except for this photo. Your eye will see the photo first.

Why? It is contrasty against all the newspaper type. Same thing with your focal point. Have a look in any magazine with text and images – note where your eyes wander over the page.

You should find a primary point, then secondary and finally a tertiary point.

My suggestion is to use medium soft charcoal for your thumbnail sketches then do more preliminary ones with soft 2B pencils before you start your paintings. Try drawing your landscape from different viewpoints, the “old masters” used to do this and after they had quite a collection they chose the best. Look how many drawings Michelangelo did of his drawings for the Sistine Chapel! In my opinion—and many others, they were fantastic drawings. And these were prelim drawings.

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