Why Landscapes? Why Not!

Many times during my art journey I’ve wondered where I might end up. What sort of artist did I aspire to become? Although I’ve tried this, that, and a half-dozen other things in art — from watercolors to pastels, from figure drawing to flowers — I seem to find myself most at home with landscapes painted in oil.

I’ve learned a lot since I attempted my first oil painting back in November, 2016, and as my knowledge grows, I realize each day how much more I have to learn. It’s a fascinating study, and I’m enjoying it immensely.

Of course, along with reading and studying, I also enjoy the time I spend at my easel. This is what’s currently sitting there. It will need some tweaking before it’s finished, but I’m pleased with the progress I’m making.

Summer Morning at White Oak Lake

Summer Morning at White Oak Lake, Oil on Canvas Panel, 18 x 24

All the same, when I talk with other artists, I’m inclined to think of myself as just a landscape painter. When my husband and I visit local art shows or studios, I rarely see many landscapes on display. Instead there are bright, bold splotches of colors in abstract patterns and designs. There are usually still life paintings. Sometimes we see paintings of dogs and cats; sometimes there are portraits, too.

Landscape painting, I tell myself, doesn’t really seem to be considered art.  At least not the fine art that attracts attention.

Yet people seem to like my landscapes. My husband likes them, of course, but I have to admit I discount his opinion, as well as the opinions of other family members. Of course they like my paintings, or at least they say they do.

Over and over, my husband tells me that people always enjoy seeing landscape paintings. They are scenes people can relate to, he explains. In this, I can agree. We’ve all seen beautiful trees, rivers, skies, lakes, and rocks, and other wonders of nature. A good landscape can put us in a quiet, reflective mood. A true work of landscape art can carry us back in time, evoke moods and memories, make us smile, and make us feel good.

I’m not saying my landscapes can do all of that — yet — but I hope to get to that place as I continue painting.

Still, it makes me wonder why more people don’t paint landscapes. I don’t want to feel that the term landscape artist is bordering on being an oxymoron. I certainly don’t want to believe that there might be a bit of artistic stigma toward landscape painting. I’ve worked very, very hard to become an artist only to find that I’m a “lesser” sort of artist — just a mere landscape painter, indeed.

Curious, I delved a bit more into art history. The idea of painting the landscape as a subject in its own right and not as backdrop for another idea or concept is a fairly new idea in the art world, I learned. It wasn’t until the 17th century that artists began to appreciate nature and create landscape paintings. It wasn’t until the 19th century, however, that landscapes really came into their own.

As I browsed around learning more about the history of landscape art, I came across these words from Widewalls:

“…landscape paintings are evergreen, they simply never get old. Their popularity may increase or decrease from time to time, but it remains high. Landscape paintings are widely popular among art collectors and art lovers alike. It has always been more probable that someone would choose a landscape painting to hang on their home wall than any other art genre. People enjoy looking at calming green fields, or inspiring blue waters, or colorful houses and vivid urban environments. It is something that is familiar to all of us, it is something that isn’t overwhelming, and we don’t need to be rocket scientists to understand the meaning of this art. It is as simple as that.”

Those words seem to clearly echo my husband’s sentiments about landscape painting, so I’m left to wonder why more artists aren’t turning to the natural world — or to urban settings, or cityscapes, another aspect of landscape art.

Why do I see so few landscapes when I visit studios? Why are there virtually no landscape paintings on display when my husband and I stroll through art fairs? Maybe it’s a local thing. It is puzzling, though.  Are artists simply not creating landscapes now?

Sometimes I almost feel as though I’ve found a nice little niche for myself, as though I’m doing something most other artists aren’t, and in a way, that’s a good thing, I suppose.  But I still don’t understand this. People do seem to love landscapes — even mine — so why aren’t more artists painting them?

Does being a landscape painter make me less of an artist? Maybe so, but I guess that’s all right. I love what I’m doing with my art, and I intend to keep right on doing it, getting better every day.

 

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About Judith

As an artist, author, and musician, I celebrate creativity and personal expression through all that I do. I invite you to join me as I explore many different aspects of life, love, beauty, and nature.

7 comments

  1. I find this interesting, because I would say that in the fairs I participate in, landscapes are the largest subject category, although of course artists generally paint more than one subject. What I mean is, I think of all the subjects that are painted, landscapes are the most represented. Personally I have a love-hate with this – because so often many of these are well-executed but are personality-less and I feel that people paint them because they will sell, without injecting that spark of individuality or emotion or whatever that makes you distinguish a painting from the crowd. I recently bought one from a fellow artist, a simple river scene, but it just leaped out at me, and when he told me it was a place he often went canoeing, I knew why – he had a real desire to paint it, and his experience lifted it from just being a river scene, I think because he had really studied the scene and knew it well before he painted it. I see you doing this same thing and I really applaud it, it makes your paintings personal and that can’t help but come through in what you are doing. Don’t know why I had to go on so long, thanks for reading.

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    • I appreciate all your comments. It seems (from what I’ve been reading) that there is a definite love/hate — or at least love/dislike — attitude toward landscape painting. I love landscapes, and I love painting them, and people seem to respond to them. As my husband says, people can relate to landscape scenes. They aren’t “art” that requires people to think too much about what they’re seeing. In his eyes, landscapes make sense. I understand his point of view, so it is surprising that we see so few landscapes when we’re at local art fairs and shows. I wonder if perhaps landscapes are so easy to relate to that many people don’t think of them as art. Obviously that’s not true in other areas, though. You do make a good point about the “meaning” or intent behind a landscape painting. Some do seem “generic” — and I know during my learning process I’ve painted a lot of meaningless, generic landscapes. Now that I’m learning better techniques and improving my abilities (which I hope to continue doing) I want to create works that have that essential spirit or personality, landscapes that speak about moods and emotions, landscapes that make people feel something genuine. Thank you so much for all your comments throughout my art journey, Claudia. Your words are always encouraging, and I appreciate that.

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      • I think after 25 years of exhibiting, I have gotten jaded on many art issues, landscapes being one of them – because I know quite a few artists who admit they paint them because they sell (these people usually have a speciality, such as covered bridges of Bucks County PA, or barn scenes in snow, or NJ shore scenes. I see why people buy them, they are familiar or have pleasant associations.) But when I see a really striking landscape painting, I take notice, because people think it’s easy to do them and it’s not, and I appreciate it. I think you are on the right track with your approach and it will show in the work as well as in the pleasure you take in it (because I can’t see how people painting anything by rote just to sell, doesn’t make you insane!)

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      • I so agree with you! Yes, sometimes I paint or draw things I’m not emotionally vested in, but those are part of lessons I’m studying, and they always lack any real spirit when they’re completed. I think it would be very dull to paint a scene just because it was “trendy” or popular.

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  2. No, no, no! Don’t talk yourself down or limit yourself ! Landscapes are high art! Don’t worry yourself over trends or popularity or what others do! Your landscapes are evocative , beautiful , and expressive! Plus, follow the zen! Also , it’s best to pursue your path rather than what all the others do! Keep faith! Stay true to your art and yourself !

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    • I do love landscape art, and that’s what I plan to keep doing. Especially now that I’m discovering this “art zen” 🙂 I plan to keep learning, keep practicing, and keep painting! I’m glad you like my landscape scenes.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Learning to Draw – With Paint | Artistcoveries

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