Question How can I paint a dense forest without it distracting the eye?
Tatiana Rogers, Australia
Answer Belinda replies
Forests have been the quintessential subject for many landscape painters throughout art history, and no doubt they’ve caused many headaches, too.
When choosing a classic, challenging scene such as this, I like to look at the work of the Old Masters to see how they tackled these problems. I often find that their solution was a good composition and the simplification of values and shapes. In this case I look at work of Russian master, Ivan Shishkin.
Effective compositions have a clear focal point and a flow that intentionally leads the eye around the image. In this sketch, I group my values into lights, mid-tones and darks and I compose my image starting from big to small shapes.
To draw the eye I place my smallest shapes and areas of highest contrast in the focal point and keep the contrast comparatively low everywhere else. I make the distant trees a similar value to the atmosphere, so as not to draw the eye too much, whereas foreground objects are close in value to the ground, which helps to bring them closer to the viewer’s eye.