What this course is and What it isn't


In a Nutshell – How to Paint a Semi-Abstract Landscape

What this Course Is and What this Course Isn’t

  • This is a course for beginner watercolour landscape artists painting in a semi-abstract style.
  • People wanting to paint in this way usually want to express something other than an exact replica of what they see before them.
  • They may feel a huge emotion when coming upon a vista and want to render that in landscape form. Their love of certain colours or shapes may move them to exaggerate that aspect of a particular landscape. Others may wish to evoke a mood and simply use the scene befor ethem as a starting point for their imaginations.
  • This is a course for those of you who would like to paint without apology or justification either to yourself or others. It is for people looking for freedom - freedom to find their own type of beauty and pleasure and self-expression in the semi-abstract landscape.
  • We will not include people, animals, buildings, farmland nor bodies of water. This is pure terra firma without any trace of mankind!

Abstract is art that has no recognizable shapes. Semi-abstract art has forms you can identify but it’s still not realistic. It’s half way between abstractionism and realism. It is this semi-abstract idea we will be pursuing!

Semi-abstract paintings have images that are abstracted but still recoginzable.

The focus and approach will be on deep yet simplified seeing of the masses in the landscape, our emotional response to it, and rendering that in a painterly way. We will suggest rather than faithfully annotate with our brushstrokes.

Sitting between figurative art and abstraction, this course is for you if you want to move into the realm of the poignant, the personal and the poetic as a means of self-expression, relaxation, escape and joy.

Through semi-abstraction we can push ourselves and the viewer to perceive the landscape anew and to feel a different connection to it. Blurry shapes, indistinct colours and wabi sabi lighting can present ethereal worlds that drive us to observe, think and voyage into our own inner landscapes.

At the end of this course you will :-

  • ·        Have enhanced artistic vision
  • ·        Be able to analyse and break down reality into clear flat planes
  • ·        Understand the relationships of all elements in your landscape
  • ·        Have a strong feeling for tones/values and be able to use them efficiently to distil reality down into potent and
  • poignant thumbnails
  • ·        Develop the transformational habit of working in a series - uncovering deeper self-knowledge and strengthening

your artistic message with each repetition

  • ·        Know how to paint atmospheric effects and inject mood into a scene
  • ·        Establish ways to honour your urges and curiosities so that you continue to use the perception and painting skills

acquired in the course beyond these lectures - and let them seep into your everyday encounters with the land.

We will start with large defined masses - based on our newly acquired skills of perception - and work to smaller and smaller pieces and final details.

·        This course does not teach how to faithfully or slavishly document a landscape.

·        It does not teach how to accurately paint landscapes nor its elements. This is not a representational nor a realism


·        This suits the temperament of someone who wants to understand how to carve up the landscape into workable sections

so in order to re-interpret it and express in a painterly way.

·        This course deals in small scale paintings (no bigger than 8x11 inches) and focuses on mini paintings of around 4x6


·        We work in a series.

·        This course loves and indeed searches for the poetic, the poignant and the asymmetric - it seeks to show you how to

paint in a gestural and holistic way.

THOUGHTS on Semi-Abstractionism

A semi-abstract landscape is a landscape that is reduced down into its fundamental elements, shapes and colours. The original reference image is then no longer as easily identifiable as it was, but allows the viewer to see beyond the physical reality that traditional landscapes depict and lets us express deep feelings about the landscape as we perceive it. Semi-abstract landscapes explore natural beauty in a context beyond everyday perception.

We are going to REDUCE! and shrink, simplify, de-clutter, purge, group, mass and recreate and RE-ARRANGE according to our personal and poignant vision of how we see and feel the landscape! Semi abstract painting is the perfect excuse to re-create reality according to how we would like to see the world!

Study your subject before beginning your painting. Abstract art is difficult for many artists - not because of its complexity, but because it is deceptively simple.

Create a series of quick paintings, or make your studies with some other medium, such as pastels, that will give you the chance to explore the image visually, as well as your emotional response to the image. Don't worry about visual accuracy. You are creating these studies to help you explore and identify the most visually important parts of the image as you perceive them. What is it that carries most poignancy for you? This may be the interaction of color and form, the presence of light as it falls on the earth or the shape of the land.

At the end of the day you must decide what it is about your landscape that your painting will emphasize and what will make the most impact on the viewers and give you a feeling of artistic satisfaction.

When we begin painting you may or may not have already done a drawing. Less is more and so if you do draw - keep it simple - with just some key markers of the main planes and features. We want to allow a bit of chaos in!

Although the basic structure of the landscape is kept, emphasis is not placed on the accuracy of the details. Instead we care about the broader image within the landscape and make more of artistic irregularities. Let yourself go (with your greyscale at hand!) and start to pull away from the real landscape and venture into the landscape as simply paint on paper.

Take breaks in the painting process and return when you have given it time to settle in your mind.

The typical semi-abstract landscape should be a strong painting, because they are only slightly based on a real image. At times it's good to turn th epainting upside down or on its side to assess how things are looking. Painting with a different orientation makes us use different sides of the brain and this can help identify masses and tones more easily.

Finally, I'd say let go of the idea of making things perfect. In a semi-abstract painting it is quite difficult to have "perfection" anyway seeing as you are creating a new reality where nobody knows the rules and where there cannot be any standards! It will also make the process of painting more enjoyable. 

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