Painting Structures

Landscapes aren’t just about land; they’re about the land and everything on it. Buildings, animals, roads, fences, streetlights, telephone poles, and vehicles are just some of the items that can show up in a landscape. Some people view the evidence of human habitation as a sign of encroachment on nature. Others look on structures as just a design element to make a center of interest. Why or whether you add a building to your landscape is up to you. Personally, I like to just enjoy the scenery.

Houses and other structures make for great subjects, but they also can be a challenge to get perspective correct, so review Chapter 8 to get comfortable with geometric shapes and perspective. Most buildings and most typical houses start with a simple cube bottom with a pyramid roof. Breaking down the shapes into geometric patterns helps you simplify a complex structure.

When painting buildings, paint the big shapes first.

Approach painting a building in the same order the builder did when he constructed it:

  1. Put the walls up first.

Pay attention to shadows on the different walls so you get a building someone could walk into, and not just a few two-dimensional squares.

  1. Put the roof on. Make sure the shadows agree. For example, make the roof darkest on the same side of the house as the wall where you put the deepest shadow.
  2. Add the windows and doors after the house is built.
  3. Put in the details like shingles, bricks, and curtains.

Leave all the details until last.

Because details are so tempting, you may want to paint them first, but waiting until later can save you much heartache. Believe me, you don’t want to add a shadow next to some detail you already painted and have the detail disappear underneath the shadow wash.

Greeley, Colorado, the town I live in, was founded by Nathan Meeker. Horace Greeley sent the young newspaper man to “Go west, young man” and start a town more than 100 years ago. Meeker’s home is now a museum that just happens to be next door to my studio/gallery and provides a perfect starter house for beginning painters.

Figures show three views of the Meeker house. It would be easy to make the simple structure look less than sophisticated. But hopefully you can enjoy these paintings because of the different angles I chose to paint, the lead-in of the trees, and the extra elements of flowers and the well. You also get a look at painting snow.

Painting-Structures     Painting-Structures    Painting-Structures

These views also remind you of one of the nicer thing about art: You can make anything you wish. Emphasize the flowers, push the color, and make it better. Why paint the one measly petunia that exists in reality when you can paint an abundant garden to embellish your world? If you want to make the world a better place, that becomes much easier in a painting than in reality.

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