How to Paint Cornfields

The beginner in oil painting may find painting cornfields a satisfying subject matter, for the colour of wheat consists of large areas of colour, allowing scope for the artist to use expressive brushwork and to paint Impressionist style.


Painting Impressionist Style


Farmer’s fields offer the artist the ideal opportunity to ladle thick paint onto the painting surface in order to suggest texture, rather like the style of Van Gogh and Monet. A painting completed in such a way in one go is known as “alla prima." The following tips might help the beginner.
  • Corn contains lots of unexpected colours, from pinks to mauves. Similarly, observe how the colour of corn shifts during different lighting conditions and weather, for instance a blue sky will reflect upon the corn.
  • To emulate an impressionist feel to the painting, use a wider brush than one might expect. For example, when picking up a size 6 brush, go up to size 9 or higher.
  • When expressing deep shadows on corn of a sunny day, don’t use black to darken the colour, but wheat’s complimentary colour, which is any colour within the blue spectrum; violet, ultramarine or even green.
  • Consider the positioning of the horizon when composing a wide landscape. A high horizon emphasises the wheat field, a low horizon emphases the sky.
  • Consider the focal point to the painting such as trees or buildings, rather than a cornfield receding into an unbroken horizon.
  • Using stretched canvas, as on this demonstration, is an ideal way to emphasise the textureof thecorn.
Art Materials Required
  1. A suitable photograph of cornfields, although painting it from life could offer the artist more challenge.
  2. Acrylic paint in permanent rose and cadmium yellow
  3. Oil paints in the following colours: titanium, cadmium yellow, lemon yellow, cadmium red, permanent rose, ultramarine, pthalo blue, burnt sienna and burnt umber
  4. A 12” x 16” (30.5 x 40.5cm) medium grain stretched canvas.
  5. A size 3 and size 6 round sable brushes
  6. A ½ inch wide bristle brush
  7. A palette consisting of a china plate or varnished wood.
  8. Small pot of artists’ white spirits
  9. A few rags
  10. Soft pencil

Tips on Painting Cornfields


In order to suggest distance, as on a misty day, mix a little purple or blue with white and introduce this colour into the cornfield colour towards the horizon.


Demonstration on Painting a Cornfield


With a stiff bristle brush, an imprimatura consisting of permanent rose and cadmium yellow had been applied to the stretched canvas. An imprimatura kills the whiteness of the painting surface and helps set the tone of the painting. iIn this case, diluted acrylic paint has been used.
Once the imprimatura has dried, sketch the composition with a soft pencil. Then begin with the palest colour of the sky. Mix titanium with a little ultramarine and dab onto the palest areas of sky.
Impressionist Clouds
Introduce a little burnt sienna and more ultramarine into the mix and dab onto the darker areas of the clouds. This gives the clouds a rippled effect, which will echo the texture of the corn. Finally, add pthalo blue and sketch the blue sky around the clouds.
An empty area of sky is easily given a focal point by adding a few clouds. Cirrus, stratus or distant cumulus can easily be suggested in a few brush strokes.
I Mixed pthalo blue, burnt sienna and viridian and sketch the detail around the cypress trees with a sable brush. Move the brush in the direction of the trees’ growth to add expression.
With a bristle brush, paste on titanium with a little burnt sienna and ultramarine and dab around the distant areas of corn. Allow the paint to skid across the canvas. For the foreground, introduce permanent rose and a little burnt umber.


Complete the painting by knitting together the different areas of colour and tone with a clean soft brush. This is often the most crucial part of the painting and will help give the overall look coherence.
This site comprise of pictures and excerpts taken from my two art instruction books. Oil Paintings from Your Garden can be purchased direct from the author via this site, or through Amazon.


My other book, Oil Paintings from the Landscape can be purchased direct from Amazon. © Rachel Shirley 2010