Landscape sketching is a great way to begin working directly from the landscape. It will help you to understand general principle about landscapes before attempting to work in paint (which can be a bit daunting!).

With the major masses of tone established in your drawing, you can begin finding detail in specific areas. We will try to add detail in such a way that it complements the overall composition of the piece.

Points of Focus

The nature of the composition in terms of the value relationships, shapes and level of detail will affect how the viewer’s eyes travel around the image.

  • The viewer’s eyes are initially drawn to the point of highest contrast, usually where a dark shape is placed on a lighter background or when a light shape and a dark shape are next to one another.
  • The eye will then follow lines that flow from this point into the rest of the image. So if lots of long lines lead to the left from the point of highest contrast, then the viewer’s gaze will also travel left.
  • After this, the eye will find lines or shapes that flow in a particular direction and follow them. So you should avoid lots of lines that lead straight to the edge of the drawing, and instead try to get the lines to loop back towards the centre point, thus keeping the viewer’s eyes within the bounds of the drawing.
  • The viewers eyes are also attracted to the parts of the drawing with more detail. So it’s worth making the point of focus more detailed than the rest of the image. Usually this means making the foreground or near middleground more detailed than the background.

Transitions

When toning in the masses during the previous lesson, we made the values flat, as we were focused on general value relationship between large masses. However, most of these large masses will have subtle transitions or gradients within them.

  • So a tree is often darker at the top and lighter near the bottom.
  • Or the sky has a gradient that gets lighter near the horizon.
  • The ground plane will usually get lighter as it gets nearer the foreground

These are just a few examples of transitions that often occur in nature, but the more you observe your scene the more you will notice subtle shifts in value. Searching for these shifts and rendering them in your sketch will help it to feel more atmospheric and alive.

Texture

You can also add detail by looking for different textures – here a few examples:

  • Tree bark is rough and patchy.
  • Long grass is made up from lots of long lines.
  • Clouds are smooth and voluminous
  • Dry rocks are very flat without highlights.
  • Wet rocks are darker and have bright white highlights
  • Large bodies of still water will reflect the scene above them.
  • Rough water will be less shiny and reflective than still water.

Once again, this is just a short list of examples. You will need to observe lots of scenes yourself to start noticing all the difference between different textures.