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Learn to Draw: Landscape

Lesson 2 of 7


Amy Wynne

Learn to Draw: Landscape

Amy Wynne

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Lesson Info

2. Composition

Lesson Info


One of the key things to think about when you're setting up to do a drawing outdoors is how you compose your image. So, composition is pretty much the arrangement of things in space, whether you are dealing with still life or a landscape or figurative composition. So in landscape often we're dealing with a very deep space where there might be something very close to you something very far away, that starts to speak to how we create depth. Which I will talk about but before I go there I want to talk a little bit about just how you might use your view finder. Your view catcher, to compose a scene. In this image here I chose a square format and I used the view finder to sort of zoom in and zoom out on the scene so that I could figure out, really, what sort of tension I wanted to create. Squares are actually a really great shape to work in but you could have a lot of choices whether or not you want to work with a square. Or a panoramic view, which is a really, sometimes really nice when yo...

u're doing landscape. Or something atypical which would be something vertical. Maybe if you were focusing on a tree. Like a portrait of a tree. You might go vertical. So in this composition I chose a square. This drawing was done out on Cap Cod in Massachusetts and it's just a marsh. It's a simplified, preliminary sketch for a painting I did. There's marshland and there's an out cropping of a tree. But what I've done here is, I've overlayed a box for my compositional shape but I've also created some lines going this way and some lines going that way, to create a filter or format to help me. Which is called the rule of thirds. And the rule of thirds is something artist use quite a lot. And it actually allows you to choose sort of a focal point or an emphasis for the drawing. Maybe, when you set up to draw you might ask yourself, why did I set up here? What do I love? What's so sparky or inspiring for me? And when I set up to draw here I actually really loved how this road went back in space and slipped behind these bushes. There was sort of like a sweet spot right there. So, in terms of the composition I actually put that very sweet spot on one of these junctures of these lines. I call these, hotspots with the rule of thirds. So if you line up your favorite part of the drawing maybe at one of these places then it's neither right in the middle of the drawing or too close to the edge. And it actually sort of feels really comfortable and natural. And allows the viewer to sort of experience the rest of the drawing without hooking on something sort of awkward in terms of placement. So rule of thirds is a nice thing to think about as your composing where you are going to put your favorite part of the drawing. And then I'm always thinking about how I enter the picture. So, this little space arrow here, is something I use a lot with my preliminary sketches. I'm asking myself, how I move into the image? How I move into the drawing? And that actually is also helping invite the viewer in. Inviting the viewer into the picture and really asking them to kind of take the journey of the eye with me. And so I feel, when I look at drawings I'm often seduced to move into them by devices like that. Often in the lower corner sketch. This too has some movement, like an S curve happening in it. And I also ask myself, what is the ratio of sky to land? So, that's something artist throughout history have done. In this case I have 1/3 land and 2/3 sky. And you can see how that's sort of lined up. When I use my view finder I raised and lowered it to sort of feel how much I wanted sky and land to happen and that is something that you'll definitely be working with. For contrast in this sketch here, in this sketch, we have actually more of an equal balance of sky to land. This artist has put the horizon closer to the middle. So this is a variation. And also in this sketch we see this river coming through this valley, so rather than a road the artist is actually created an entry point into the picture by following this river which loops around and really brings our eye into the picture. So, that's something that, again, you are going to want to look for as you start composing your images. So composition is a key part of image making and in this course when we actually draw our scene here we'll be really looking to see the reason why I chose my view and how composition really helps to bring you into the picture.

Class Description

Join instructor and professional painter, Amy Wynne, as she teaches this introduction to drawing the landscape. She’ll share how to use a fountain pen, brushes, water, a pencil and a viewfinder to go out and capture the space and environment around you.

In this class, Amy will cover:

  • Surveying the landscape: seascapes, countryside, and industrial
  • Composition: nature sketching as a sensory diary
  • Using a viewfinder
  • Choosing your sky to land ratio
  • Achieving depth in your drawings
  • Establishing atmosphere and shadows

Amy will end the course with a series of drawing challenges to get you outside and drawing more every day! She’ll challenge you to draw the view from your car dashboard or your window at different times of day, keeping drawings in a field sketch journal.

Amy has been teaching painting and drawing for over 20 years at colleges across New England including the Rhode Island School of Design.

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Diane Boland

Amy is an excellent at teaching in a clear and concise way and getting exactly to the point. A good brief introduction to get you started in landscape drawing. I'm not sure it was exactly as I expected but the information presented is important for any beginner. Class was fairly brief but I still need to learn to put what I see down. My tree looks nothing like hers. This is where i need help next and was not really covered. I could easily take more of her classes if she had them.

a Creativelive Student

I cannot understand the few people who were critical of this class. She gives dozens of excellent ideas for the beginning landscape artist. Especially helpful was the explanation and use of the viewfinder to focus your drawing. Five stars fom me to her. Thank you! Extremely helpful and inspirational.


Good tips on relaxing and enjoying the outdoors before you begin drawing. Great course.