1.1 Preconceptions about Landscape

TASK:Abandon technique. Pick up a pencil and draw a very rough sketch of a ‘landscape’ picture or brainstorm.

I found this quite difficult because I have been doing landscape drawings and paintings for OCA Fine Art courses (See my Landscape Art and Prints on Zemniimages). These have broadened my own preconceptions of what landscape can be to anything from figurative panoramas, through expressionist close-up to near complete abstraction. Though this diversity is not yet reflected in my photography – one of the reasons I find this course exciting.

  • what shape is the picture? 19C conventions were usually landscape format with broad vistas. But some late 19C landscapes and also earlier drawings were much more focused on particular elements in portrait format eg trees. Japanese and Chinese landscapes were also  often vertical. There can also be very long thin panoramas, or tall thin verticals also.
  • what sort of terrain is depicted? 19C conventions and also Chinese and Japanese landscapes were concerned with mountains, trees, flat fields, sky, water, river. Sometimes cottages, houses, castles. 
  • what is in it?  Are there people? 19C conventions and before generally used landscape as a backdrop to religious or historical paintings. ‘Landscape paintings’ in both Western and Asian traditions generally had one or two people or a small group of people dwarfed by the natural elements. Sometimes they are excluded altogether eg  Monet’s waterlillies and abstract landscapes like Richter. 
  • how are the subjects arranged? According to rule of thirds composition. Pleasing. But might have high, low or central horizons, and diagonals and triangular relationships or swirling circles.
  • how might you describe the ‘mood‘ of the picture. Awestruck, calm, Turner’s turbulence.  David’s mystique. Whistler’s mistiness. Colour and dramatic distortions in Hockney.

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