Exercise: Hard or Soft Landscape


Exercise: Hard or Soft Landscape

For this painting exercise, choose a view of either a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ landscape; this could be interpreted as urban or pastoral… You may find it useful to work using the view from a window or doorway. A window could help you to isolate a single area for your painting…

As the weather is being less than kind at the moment, (thick pea soup fog or pouring rain), using views through windows is making sense. As I have in my mind to use a soft landscape for a future exercise, I decided to try a more urban view – well as urban as a small village can be. From an upstairs window I can see over neighbours’ rooftops and gardens with sheds and outhouses and the odd tree and shrub.

I had intended to make both a landscape and portrait orientation sketch. However, as I progressed with the landscape version, it actually worked as the window frame helped to form landmarks to position elements of the view.

Preliminary sketch Pen & watercolour A5 in sketchbook

Preliminary sketch
Pen & watercolour
A5 in sketchbook



As this method worked well for the previous exercise, I decided to use watercolour again. The result is a little messy yet does give me a lot of information. Outside was quite cloudy and overcast so I had to have the bedroom light on to see what I was doing.




Preliminary sketch Pen A5 in sketchbook

Preliminary sketch
A5 in sketchbook


As the colour sketch gives me a lot of detail, I decided to make a line sketch to simplify the shapes. This clarified a complex view in my mind and I then felt confident that I could recreate the view in my painting. I don’t allow myself to use oil paint in a bedroom – I know how easy I find it to make a mess, it would take just one brush to fly out of my hand and land on the cream carpet and I’d be in serious trouble!



Work in Progress for Final Painting

The light faded very quickly today, so mid afternoon I employed a daylight bulb so I could see my board properly.  This made me realise that I had started to introduce brighter colour in the buildings and gardens, whereas I had intended to keep the outside tones muted as the weather was dull. I used the “tonking” trick again with newspaper and this worked a treat. It brought some texture into the outside and played down the colours and intensity. Pleased so far, I needed to pull everything together with the interior of the window and the foreground neighbour’s garden. I had used the negative shapes between buildings and the dark and light shapes to bring out the structures, trying hard to ignore too high a level of detail.

Final Painting

Final painting Oil on A3 board

Final painting
Oil on A3 board

This photograph (and the others to be honest), is a little grainy due to the low light levels, however, it still gives a good representation of the finished painting. I am pleased with the muted, simplified outside view, although I think the window may be a little inaccurate. Having said that, I like the mood and atmosphere I see in it, the interior is brighter due to artificial light, which makes it cosy and the outside looks a little dismal. Definitely a day to be indoors and looking out!

2 thoughts on “Exercise: Hard or Soft Landscape

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