Landscape Art

"Gondoliers" by Doug Higgins OPAM

"Gondoliers" by Doug Higgins OPAM

Plein air landscape painting has become popular and it’s what I’ve been practicing for about thirty years and so have amassed a great deal of experience by painting landscapes and seascapes all over the world. Usually I use oils but in Europe the choice is acrylics mostly due to airline security. Acrylics are water based and therefore not flamable.

I begin by finding a site, something that I can visualize as a painting, select a focus, the remainder of the painting will be painted in relationship to the focus so as to direct the viewer to the focus or center of interest. Then I loosely arrange in my mind the elements on the painting surface, the composition.

Next I begin the painting by loosely painting in the major shapes in a linear fashion. Then I begin the masses by painting in a large known quantity, usually the sky, painting from back to front, background to foreground, thin in the shadows, thick in the light and leaving details for the last stages.

To elaborate on this process, watch the video below as I identify my location and demonstrate some of the techniques I refer to above.

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  • Suzanne Lago Arthur

    Great post! I very much enjoyed this one. Thanks for the video Mr. Higgins! Your commentary was very instructive  & much appreciated. 

    • Doug Higgins OPAM

       Thank you, Suzanne, for taking the time to reply. This is my first experience with blogging and it’s nice to know someone is seeing and appreciating it.

  • Kathy Maniscalco

    I watched your video and thoroughly enjoyed the progression along with the wonderful commentary – you made painting the scene look so easy, so fluid, so natural. 
    I enjoy the various textures and brushwork too. Do you have a rule of thumb as to when to work the paint with the palette knife?

    • Doug Higgins OPAM

      I use a palette knife mostly for sharp edges or for texture (the flat 
      surface), the leaves of trees for instance. I sometimes use the edge for
      very thin lines.

  • Doug Higgins OPAM

     I use a palette knife mostly for sharp edges or for texture (the flat
    surface), the leaves of trees for instance. I sometimes use the edge for
    very thin lines.

  • Karen Halbert

    I highly recommend the videos. It’s like having private lessons from a master.

    • Doug Higgins OPAM

       Thank you very much, Karen, for your comment. If you have any questions I would be glad to answer them to the best of my ability.

    • Doug Higgins OPAM

       By the way, Karen, there’s another preview DVD on my website.

  • I’ve enjoyed your work  for a long time. Very good demo. Nice balance of warm and cools and a very dynamic composition. I like how you begin the work with a plein air approach and then edit and tighten up in the studio. Would this work still be considered plein air? Where do you draw that line? Keep on Painting!

    • Dhfineart

       Hmmm. Where is the line between studio and plein air painting? In my case, since I learned everything I know about landscape from outdoor painting, that which I do in the studio calls on those experiences and informs the studio “inventions”. It seem to me I’ve always done at least something else to my outdoor work the next day in the studio and still consider them to be plein air.
      Thank you for the comment, Steve.

  • Joe Anna Arnett

    You have done vibrant plein air landscape for decades and your work has such force and life.
    So often, when a  plein air painting is translated in the studio into a larger work, it loses the vitality.
    What are your thoughts about this and do you have suggestions for maintaining the vitality in the studio painting?

    • Dhfineart

       Now here’s a great question about guarding against the loss of vitality when translating an outdoor landscape painting into a larger version in the studio. So what is it that causes the feeling of vitality in the original painting done on site? One of the main causes is rapid execution. The sun is not in the same place as the painting progresses creating changes in what the artist is seeing which causes an urgency to rapidly move to completion. There isn’t the time for fussy explanations and details.
      The artist initially paints in the large masses and gets paint all over the surface. The large masses are generalities and are stated with accuracy of placement, color, value and chroma (brighter colors in the foreground) but no detail. The large initial masses contain suggestions of all the decisions made before the painting has begun… center of interest, composition, perspective both linear and aerial, an indication of the color scheme and the elements which will be included, eliminated, shifted in position, exaggerated or diminished in attraction power. Then as the painting moves rapidly toward completion, the paint is not overworked and the painting retains a sense of… vitality.
      Now in the studio, the artist has decided to create a larger work using reference to a plein air paintings as a start. A large studio painting is not a smaller painting made larger but a work with a completely new set of considerations. for instance, in the studio painting the artist may introduce figures, animals, vehicles or any manner of new additions. This may cause a shift in the focus, or center of interest, of the painting. Once these decisions are made the painting is begun using the same approach as the plein air painting described above. This time an artificial urgency is imposed using larger brushes than in the original and approximating a similar rapid execution vitality. The great difference is that in nearing the end of the larger studio painting the artist slows down and paints the figures etc. with more clarity and accuracy.

  • Diana Moses Botkin

    Thank you for this demo, Doug. I especially enjoyed your visualization of the rough painting plan, invisibly air stroked over your bare canvas. I’ve done similar actions but never saw anyone else do it before! I also liked your friendly and straightforward manner.

    • Dhfineart

       For many years, Diana, I was an actor and I learned to prepare before entering a stage so that the backstage and onstage was a seamless transition. Preparing before painting is a similar method. Friendly and straightforward may be a result of my acting training as well but thank you for the compliment.

  • Diane

    Your paintings have a wonderful spirit,  and are a delight to the eye!  Thanks for sharing your expertise.

  • Your paintings have a wonderful spirit to them.  Thank you for sharing your expertise.