I’m often on Facebook—well, I should say I’m often on the computer, either on Facebook or checking emails—and yes, I know I should be painting more, but I’m always checking out other artists’ work, especially their beautiful landscapes.
Many of these painters say plein air painting is one of the best ways to paint. Some are able to travel to other states, paint in Italy, or just go up to the mountains or down to the beach and set up their easels, paints, equipment and capture the wonder of the outdoors.
For some painters, like myself, it isn’t always convenient or possible to get away. There are family obligations, jobs, the cost of gas, those kinds of things. One day when more money starts coming in (I firmly believe in the law of attraction) I’ll be able to travel a bit more and see these lovely places and capture them on canvas and paper.
For now though, while I go about my errands, or travel back and forth from my part time jobs, I stop and check out places that look interesting. For example, about 10 minutes from our apartment is a place called Sepulveda Wildlife Reserve near Lake Balboa in Van Nuys, California.
Now, I’ve lived in the San Fernando Valley since I was 11 years old, and I never knew this pretty place existed. I happened to notice a little bit of water peeking through the trees as I drove by one day, so I parked and found a trail leading to this beautiful lake with gorgeous marshland and tall trees.
I couldn’t believe a place like this existed amidst the smog and traffic! I ended up taking tons of photos. . . it’s like a whole other world there. Beautiful, and right next door!
In Lake Balboa there’s a huge park, with cranes and ducks and other wildlife. Down the street on the other side there’s the Japanese gardens, which I plan on visiting in order to take more photos for paintings. On the main drag there a lot of tall trees as well. . . and all this is within 10 minutes from my house.
When I paint these landscapes I don’t just want to capture the beauty of the image before me, I want to capture a feeling. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a local boulevard, or a community park, or a wildlife reserve—if you can portray an image and invoke a feeling that takes your viewers out of the ordinary, just for a bit, they can imagine themselves in a far away place.
So check out your local parks, nearby rivers, alleyways, and any neighborhood gardens and yards you can find. You may have a gorgeous landscape in your own backyard.
Or the next time you’re stuck in traffic, pull off to the side (safely!) so you can snap a landscape photo—especially if it’s in the early morning or early evening—and include lots of sky in your shot. The sky and various cloud formations make some gorgeous landscape paintings.
Even an alleyway can be made beautiful. Take a photo to use as reference, determine a focal point, leave out what doesn’t suit your painting, and look to capture the beauty of your subject. The texture, or the light streaming down, or whatever you see that you love.
The truth is, you don’t have to travel long distances to find great landscapes to paint. Just step outside, and look around. Or drive TO a place that you often drive past. Once you’ve found that place, or that moment, that takes you out of your day, you’ve found your next amazing landscape.
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