Landscape from memory

Suilven near Lochinver, Sutherland

Picture taken after second painting session

This exercise involved painting a landscape from memory using large brushes to ensure that the focus was on the marks made by the brushes.

Based on the exercise of Getting to Know your Brushes I wanted to use some of the techniques that I had particularly liked from that exercise. I decided to paint the mountain Suilven, in Sutherland, Scotland as the sun was starting to set. The hill is very dramatic and seems to rise directly out of the relatively flat landscape that surrounds it.  I chose the scene because it included trees, water and grass and I felt I could practice some of the mark making techniques from the exercise.

Session 1

I used  the tip of a flat 1” brush and a sweeping movement to create the trunk of the tree and the tip of a ½” flat brush to create ripples on the water. I also used the side of the ½” flat to create texture on the hillside.

For the first session on the painting I worked from a very basic sketch but it quickly become muddy and messy. I decided that I needed to re-do the sketches as I needed more prompts for my memory when it came to the actual painting. I did a line sketch and a tonal study and started again:

  • Pale ochre wash and loosely painted lines of tree, garden, hill.
  • Blocked in main colours with loose wash and worked over this mixing paint directly on paper, keeping paint thick.
  • Mainly used ½” flat brush

My aim was not to be too representational but to convey texture and atmosphere.

Session 2

For the second session I added more colour and texture and, using the ½” flat brush, created more detail on the tree and hill. I wasn’t getting the colour of the water right – it seemed too blue and wasn’t working with other parts of the picture.

Session 3

In the third session I worked on the sky, hill and water. I added a glaze of red on the hill to try and convey the point where the sun starts to set but the sky is still blue and fading to a creamy yellow at the horizon. I also added foliage to the tree.

The water was still proving a challenge and I made it darker but still wasn’t happy with it. At this stage I overworked it and, in rubbing of some of the excess paint, tore the paper.

Learning Points

  • Working from memory isn’t easy. I thought I could rely on what was in my head being conveyed to paper but found it more useful to create more detailed drawing from my memory as if I was observing the scene.
  • The water proved difficult – which may be partly my memory as to the colour it was – probably darker as the sun wouldn’t be fully reaching it at that point in the day.
  • I liked the trunk of the tree – both the technique of using the tip of the brush in a sweeping motion to create it and the sense of light falling on it and also the sense of the red, setting sun on the hillside.



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