Maybe you do without realizing it.
In the book Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting, John Carlson writes: "Every good picture is fundamentally an arrangement of three or four large masses - a design of differing masses or large blocks of color - light, dark, and half-dark or half-light." (p. 33) So...being able to see the major shapes in your subject will make the painting process easier - especially with landscape, where there's so much information it can be overwhelming.
Here are a few quick value sketches I did using photo references on my computer. I used white and Van Dyck Brown - a very dark brown, and I think there might be some raw umber in there too. I was using up leftover paint blobs on my palette, and squinting a lot, as I worked at dividing the motif into no more than four value shapes. We often hear artists say things like "every good painting has a strong abstract design beneath it" - and this is pretty much what theyre talking about. Look at your study in a mirror and upside down - you will more fully appreciate the "abstract" qualities - how the dark shapes stand against the light shapes. Ask yourself these questions
- are my shapes interesting?
- or are my shapes even?
Here are a few resources to help you:
- Blick Canvas Panels - these start at 46 cents for a 4 inch square, 67 cents for a 5 inch by 7 inch. They are sturdy, the surface has a rougher canvas texture but you aren't trying to do fine detail work here, just practice seeing the different large masses and their values. I buy in bulk, and they are stacked up in the studio, silently nagging me every day. I mean, really, you can't use "cost" as your excuse anymore.
- New Traditions Art Panels - these are very affordable for when you want to work on a better surface - a 6" x 8" 3/16 inch gatorfoam panel with Claessens single primed medium tooth with titanium zinc oil priming is $4.16. They also offer sample packs if you aren't sure which type of linen and priming you like best.
- SourceTek Canvas Panels also offers a variety of surfaces. The 6" x 8" oil primed Claessens landscape linen sells for $5.03 but must be purchased in packs of 5 or more.
The added value with any of these products is the ability to experiment with the various linens and priming and substrates available without spending a lot of money - so for all those Type-A personalities out there, you can multi-task by combining your Notan practice with discovering which surface you like best.