Finding Your Landscape Voice

Posted July 05 2016

There are many reasons why as an artist you might be drawn to landscape as your subject matter.  Whether you’re painting plein air or in a studio, we all experience the presence of landscape in a way that we experience very few other things in our life. Landscape literally surrounds you. However, just because you know you want to study landscape painting, simplifies very little. There are many different ways stylistically to approach landscape painting.

With all these options how do we find focus to our studies? Don’t panic. The great truth is that a good teacher even outside of your style area will teach you a ton about your subject matter. For example, I’m not into realism. Charles Harrington paints fairly realistically and so one would think I should pass on his workshop. But Harrington is a master of acrylics. Every time I watch his workshop, I learn something new about the far reaching capabilities of the medium. That is knowledge I definitely do use in my portraits and florals.  

There is something really inspiring though about watching first hand a style you love. It can be helpful to put specific words to that love. One way to do that is to open an app like Pinterest and searching “landscape painting.” Which paintings catch your eye and for what reason? Here are some questions to ask:

• Does it lean toward realism or abstraction?
• Are the colors bold or more subdued?
• How much detail does the painting have?
• Is the painting more opaque or more transparent/translucent?
• What landscape elements are there? (For example: trees, mountains, watercolor, buildings, etc.)

By answering these questions, you can at least set the initial path for what you want to learn. If you like bold colors, time to find an artist that uses bold colors. (Maybe even outside of landscape painting.) If you like realism, time to find an artist that leans toward the more realistic.

Because we’re focusing on landscapes in this week’s Tuesday newsletter, we wanted to walk you through some of your landscape workshop options. Each of thee workshops has slightly different style elements although you will of course see some overlap. (Also, please note: We’re focusing on a very particular type of landscape here, mainly rural areas. There may or may not be a building.) We hope you’ll find one that speaks to you stylistically and will help you begin defining your own artistic voice in landscape.


And, again, never fear. If none of these teachers speaks to your intended style goals directly, each workshop presents concepts and tools that will help you no matter what style of landscape you finally land on.

Happy painting!


Dale Laitinen

Medium: Watercolor

The Language of Landscape in Watercolor

Laitinen’s style has many elements of the traditional transparent watercolor style. He describes painting as a battle of the edges. He shows how to contrast hard and soft lines for variety and how to create lost-and-found edges that keep viewers curious. Laitinen injects emotion with daring color choices and maintains transparency as he layers. He starts with broad strokes on the cliffs to points of light in the trees. He wants each element to say exactly as he feels.

If you like Laitinen’s style but are somewhat newer to watercolor, Laitinen also has a more beginner friendly workshop, Landscape Essentials in Watercolor. Here you see his signature style at play but he explains in more detail basic concepts and principles.

Hugh Greer

Medium: Acrylic

Acrylic Landscape Painting: Tools & Techniques

Landscape Studies in Acrylic

Create Mood & Atmosphere with Color & Value

What we love about Hugh Greer’s three workshops is how naturally they fit into one another. If you like Greer’s style, you have everything you need to really learn from him  from the basics to the more complex. Greer paints in acrylics and because he uses very thin washes, his feel is much more that of watercolor. Greer also is a master of edges (like Dale Laitinen) and you’ll learn about the push and pull of hard and soft edges especially in his third workshop, Create Mood & Atmosphere with Color & Value.

Learn the elements that go into a Hugh Greer painting with his first workshops. If you really love his style, we suggest that you get all three. They each are great as a standalone but the amount of information you get in all three is staggering.

Charles Harrington

Medium: Acrylic

Acrylic Landscapes the Watercolor Way

If you like Hugh Greer, we think you’ll also really love Charles Harrington. Harrington works in acrylics but as the title describes, he evokes a sense of watercolor. Like Greer’s third video, Harrington dos this with thin washes. He harnesses acrylics unique ability to layer opaque, translucent and transparent passages harmoniously. He mixes sparingly on his palette and heavily on the paper to create complicated blends and avoid flat, dull grays. Harrington also isn’t afraid to use texture to do some of the work for him. He uses a spray bottle, splattering and active brushwork to break up large shapes and create lifelike texture.

Mark Mehaffey

Medium: Watercolor

Painting a Dramatic Landscape in Watercolor

If you’re looking for a bit more drama be it color or style, look no further than Mark Mehaffey’s Painting a Dramatic Landscape in Watercolor. In a few hours even a beginner will achieve drama in their landscape watercolors. Mark Mehaffey would rather be too bold than too timid in his painting. This philosophy helps him push the limits of color and value in his dramatic watercolor landscapes. In this workshop, Mark focuses on the four basic elements of drama to create an electrifying mountain scene. You'll learn to harness contrast and color balance to make your pigments leap from the paper.

Mark Mehaffey

Medium: Acrylic

Paint Acrylic Landscapes: Creative color in Plein Air

Oh look! Another Mehaffey. This artist is truly prolific. If you want Mehaffey’s bold strokes but are set in acrylic, try Paint Acrylic Landscapes: Creative color in Plein Air. This workshop represents a looser style with bigger brush strokes all the way through. Mehaffey uses the scenery as a reference for his painting. This means he has to translate what he sees to what the painting the painting needs. He blocks in large shapes and combines colors from a limited palette of warm and cool primary acrylics to get a range of values and shades for greenery. And while Mehaffey paints with broad strokes, he does refine the shapes and uses different sizes of objects to create a focal point.  


Ratindra Das

Medium: Watercolor

Painting a Personal Reality in Watercolor

We’re breaking subject theme a bit with Das’s workshop, Painting a Personal Reality in Watercolor but his style is so unique we wanted to make sure you got a taste. Das gives us a wonderful example of how to shake off old habits and listen to our muse. He begins with a value/shape drawing already much changed from his reference photo, then proceeds to design the painting as a whole. His strong design sense and willingness to question common expectations permit new freedom and individuality in watercolor. Das uses unconventional flat shapes, manipulates the visual path and mixes vibrant colors directly on the watercolor paper to recreate his visceral experience of a bustling harbor scene. The result is fresh, vibrant, energetic, unique and certainly not boring!


Steven Quiller

Medium: Various Watermedia

Water Media Foundation for the Painter

If you’re still figuring out what media you’d like to experience but know you love the bold work of Steven Quiller, you are in serious luck with Quiller’s workshop, Water Media Foundation for the Painter. He walks through watercolor, gouache, acrylic and casein in various forms. (Remember, acrylic can be used more like oil or more like watercolor depending.) He also uses combinations of mediums. This two DVD series is an incredible look at the work and instruction of such an amazing author and painter.You can see the complete chapter listings if you scroll down here.


When Kelly Anne Powers isn't writing for Creative Catalyst Productions, she writes at her own blog.