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  • Writer's pictureMckenzie Kvalsten

Oil Landscape Painting Process

Fairy lake montana
My reference photo of the Fairy Lake path before editing

Today I'm going to share my basic painting process! I always begin by putting down a colored ground. I don't like when naked white canvas shows through because it feels like I missed a spot! Even if I have large areas of white in the painting, I actually add white paint to cover them.

Most times I use a warm red color for my first layer because it makes the green foliage pop. But this time I went with green because I had leftover green paint that I didn't want to waste. I pick my reference photo and do a bit of color tweaking in Photoshop. I like my paintings to be a bit dramatic so I get the colors just right on the computer before I start painting the real deal.

Next I use a dark color to block in the basic size and shape of things. This stage is loose and forgiving- any mistakes can be painted over so I just follow my instincts here.

Now I'll begin adding smaller shapes and start with the color. I usually do the most adjusting at this point if things aren't looking quite right. If I am going to worry, now is the time to do it! I usually take a few minutes to question the painting and consider if it's going to work out. Of course it always does, but some doubt can be exciting, so I don't try to avoid it anymore.

This is my favorite part! Adding that negative space. It's so satisfying to paint in the sky and this is where things start to come together. I like standing really close to the painting then backing up and watching the blobs become a picture. It reminds me of those Seeing Eye books I had as a kid! Here's where I get exited again and feel like this will be a great painting after all.

Here you can see I added in some red! These are the parts that would usually be showing through if I started with a red ground, but I had to add them in myself since I used green as a first layer.

I put some yellow in the sky and layered up that foliage until it felt right. This lake has a variety of vibrant wild flowers so I tucked some into the foreground. Ta-da! Now I stand back and smile.

It feels so good to have finished a painting. I take this happy energy and use it to get started on a new piece!

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