Using the Triangle or Pyramid in Landscapes

The triangular or pyramid has long been a standard composition for still lifes, but it also can be used in landscape works too.

8x10 pastel plein air, “The Sky through the Hill Top Trees.

I don't consider myself a plein air painter but I enjoy the skill and work of so many great plein air artists that I challenge myself to go out and learn from the experience. I have two groups of artists that go out to paint and I try to join them as often as possible. One group, "the guys" goes out on Mondays and Fridays, and the other just formed this year, "the girls" who go out on Wednesdays -- although both are mixed that's how we all determine which is which.

Editing Outside is My Challenge

The above pastel is from a wooded scene viewed from across a field with me standing on a road. The farmland went up to the base of the hill, then the farmer must mow the grass up to the treeline that only covered the top of the hill.

It was the sky poking through the tree trunks that attracted me to this scene. My best friend, the thumbnail sketches, let me play with the scene. The first was as I saw it then three more let me move things, zoom in and out. It was when I zoomed in that I started to realize it was the light coming through the trees as sky that was of most interest. Had I just set up my easel and started painting in color, I'm sure I would not have edited out all the horizontal lines that went from the road, the field, the mow line, then to the hill top.

All the detail and 180 degrees of view creates distractions. The color wheel helped me focus on the colors I wanted to use, and not to try and duplicate the local colors, a problem I often have outside.

After looking at my sketches, I decided there was a triangle in this. Although the point is rounded, it still has a wide base and two sides moving upward. The only problem after blocking this in was that I saw the hilltop was centered. If you compare this to the finished above, you will see I offset the peak of the hill and changed the angle of the sides so they would be less symmetrical and different from one another.

What I learned

  • Textured paper in smaller sizes doesn't work as well as it does for larger sizes

  • I still have a long way to go to paint well in plein air

  • Plein air doesn't have to be about the light, it can be about the subject

  • Patience is critical for me to sort out why I am attracted to a subject and to what part of that subject I want to portray.

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