Landscape watercolor paintings of the Southwest are stunning and dynamic. Perhaps you are looking to purchase such a painting but are unsure what makes a painting good. This article covers the elements of design and how they can best be utilized specifically in paintings of Southwest landscapes.
A line is a mark between two points, and in art, it can be straight, curved, jagged, or even broken. The horizon is a common line that in paintings of the Southwest is likely to be irregular. The Southwest is covered in tall cliffs, deep canyons, and distant jagged mountains. Lines can be used to indicated cracks in cliffs and layers of sediments.
The Southwest is a desert, so paintings of that landscape are heavy on oranges and reds. You will generally see very little green in these settings. Though mostly warm, vibrant blues and purples are also used for the sky and the shaded side of cliffs. Even these cool colors thought still are part of an overall warm feeling.
Value refers to how light or dark something is. Landscape scenes in paintings are typically well-lit, daytime scenes, or multi-valued sunset and sunrise settings. You want the light to appear as it naturally would in the Southwest. The sun is bright and strong there. This is reflected by having where the sun hits the land being painted softly with lots of water. Shadows will be dark and have strong crisp lines that show detail.
The shape element of design refers to flat shapes. 2D shapes typically won't be found in landscape paintings.
Form comes when 2D shapes are given another dimension and now appear to have mass and depth to them. The forms in Southwest landscapes will be cliffs, cactuses, and occasionally rivers and will all be imperfect. You'll see lots of angles and curves in watercolor paintings of the Southwest. Nature isn't organized and watercolor is a loose medium that showcases nature's unpredictability.
Positive space is where an artist features objects, such as cliffs. Negative space is what goes around objects, such as the sky. Where an artist chooses to place things makes up the composition of the painting. Keep an eye out for balance but not symmetry. Again, nature is imperfect and art should reflect that.
Texture refers to how things appear to feel. Artists can manipulate watercolor paints in ways that create vast amounts of texture. The Southwest is dynamic in texture, with sand, cliffs, and spikey plants, so in a good painting, the artist will use a mix of hard and soft to make the textures of the desert apparent.
With good use of these artistic elements, a watercolor painting of the Southwest landscape should convey the feeling one gets when looking out at the desert. If you are looking to purchase a Southwest landscape watercolor painting remember how these elements are used to help you select a good one.