The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting

A landscape painting guide for oil painters that breaks landscapes down into component elements from nature, and showcases tools and techniques used by classic and modern oil painters for bringing these scenes to life.

Landscape Oil Painting Techniques for Rendering Sky, Terrain, Trees, and Water

Landscape painting is one of the most popular subjects for painters working in the medium of oils–from classic masters to contemporary artists. In The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting, established Watson-Guptill author and noted instructor-painter Suzanne Brooker presents the fundamentals necessary for mastering landscape oil painting, breaking landscapes down into component parts: sky, terrain, trees, and water. Each featured element builds off the previous, with additional lessons on the latest brushes, paints, and other tools used by artists.

Key methods like observation, rendering, and color mixing are supported by demonstration paintings and samples from a variety of the best landscape oil painters of all time. With The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting, oil painters looking to break into landscape painting or enhance their work will find all the necessary ingredients for success.

About the Author

Suzanne Brooker received her BFA at the California Institute of the Arts in 1979, attended by invitation the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York City, and pursued her drawing studies at the School of Visual Arts. In 1990 Brooker returned to the West Coast and studied life drawing with Gary Faigin at the Gage Academy of Art and completed her MFA in figurative painting under Domenic Cretera at California State University, Long Beach. The author of Portrait Painting Atelier (2011), Brooker currently paints and teaches drawing and painting at the Gage Academy.


My passion for the visual world and the pursuit of making images began at an early age and has motivated my work as an artist. How images evoke memory, create metaphor, capture a relatedness between viewer and artist, awaken an aesthetic response has been an ongoing investigation. I work primarily from observation, often using my own photographs, as well as newspaper images and works of other artists, historical and contemporary, as source material. A series of paintings usually evolves from a metaphoric theme, a pictorial problem of light and space, or a dialogue created between abstraction (flat surface) and representation (illusion of form).

Drawing plays an important part in my creative process, whether to sharpen my perceptions or to discover the calligraphic mark underlying a gesture. The paintbrush becomes a way to draw-in-paint, dancing over the surface, that combines intensive layering of transparent paint with areas of thicker, more gesturally applied paint. One of my goals as an artist is to combine Old Master approaches to paint palettes and techniques combined with modern notions of the paint surface.

This has to lead me to explore a rich variety of paint layers involving the transparency of paint over fields of toned grounds in contrast to more direct, gestural “traces” left by a painted stroke. The calligraphy of the brush mark, whether scumbled, dabbed, blended, or loosely drawn through the paint becomes the means for developing a rich surface. Overall my aim is to create a sense of a glow of light emanating from within the figure rather than a reflection from the surface of the skin.

The human dilemma expressed through anatomical gestures would be the simplest way to describe my current work. It was during my graduate studies in figurative painting that I became deeply involved in the beautiful complexity of rendering the human body. I drew bones, painted from cadavers, and studied the art of the Renaissance in order to find that moment of the “telling” gesture that reveals humanity through the human form. How to convey the unique qualities of a person set within the context of the universal human drama, the expression of their individuality, is more important to me in a portrait painting, than who they are as a social identity.

The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting: Techniques for Rendering Sky, Terrain, Trees, and Water by Suzanne Brooker. Hardcover: 208 pages. Publisher: Watson-Guptill; First Edition edition (August 18, 2015).

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