Compositional Tension in the Plein Air Landscape

Here we go ’round again!

Sometimes the landscape doesn’t offer much to start with. On a crystal clear morning like this, the sky also offered no real subject matter. The scene consisted of blue and gray and very little other color.

Instead of relying on color and light effects, this landscape painting became more of and exercise in the composition of rhythm, movement and counter action. On A Morning - plein air watercolor painting by Tony Conner

The scene contained a strong sense of movement in the foreground, with the nearest field diving off to the right, echoing the movement of the foreground road, which also pushes off toward the right. Even the shadows and tree lines in the middle distance seem to want to flow off the page to the right.

Planning the Composition Balances and Focuses the Painting

Keeping the viewers eye on the painting, and on the focal points in particular, is a constant challenge for the artist.

In this painting, countering the visual weight created by so many shapes and lines heading off the right-hand margin was critical. Three compositional “catches” were included from the scene – the yellow house in the middle-ground, the snowbank in the lower right corner and the stand of trees in the near middle ground. The strong, almost perfect verticals in these elements, stops the movement and re-directs our gaze back up toward the two distant hills just catching morning light.  Both of these landscape elements have strong diagonal thrusts of their own, but in the opposite direction. From the peaks of these hills, the eye is drawn back down and to the left where it again encounters elements want to push to the right.

The eye follows and we go ’round again!

Red Dot_Sold copySorry, this painting is sold.