Landscape artists are truly blessed. Their subject matter is inspiring, their studios are some of the most beautiful natural wonders around the world, and they take as their ultimate goal that of painting light. What could be more inspiring? But landscape art is not easy, though enjoyable. A landscape artist at the top of their game has learned how to paint landscapes through much rigorous study—choosing compositions that give a sense of place as well as capturing changing weather patterns and ephemeral light. But a finished landscape oil painting—when done well—has the power to almost transport its viewer, and that is why a landscape artist will always continue to create paintings of landscapes.
Plein air is a popular technique for painting landscapes because it helps the artist be present – not just physically, but mentally. That’s why artist Bob Bohler, who also happens to be an accomplished musician, advises artists to never wear headphones while painting en plein air. “I couldn’t hear that dog splashing in the water or those grasshoppers snapping their wings if I were wearing headphones,” he points out.
But for those who work in the studio, great landscape painting is still possible. Use a photo reference and a recording of the sound on location to inspire you. However, Bohler prefers to paint outdoors. “It’s natural—everybody starts out using photo reference. But you get the best possible information in front of you when you paint plein air,” he comments. “Once you can break away from using a photo, you are free. You feel like a bird leaving its nest.”