Ideas for Painting in the Garden

Painting out of doors has a special appeal for any aspiring artist trying to find artistic inspiration. But painting in the garden is a great way forward into landscape painting, for it contains lots of interesting subject matter for painting.

Where to Find Inspiration for Painting
Any garden, no matter how ordinary it might seem, offers interesting subject matter. Furthermore, the light that falls onto the garden is brighter than the light that filters indoors. There is also something invigorating about painting from life. It is more immediate and forces the artist to make quick decisions as the light changes. It is an excellent opportunity for the developing artist. Small wonder there are so many books on painting flowers alone.
Ideas for Oil Painting


Every garden has something to offer, no matter how small. If it has any of the following, something can be drawn from it:


Lawns, greenhouses, pots, hedges, pets, flowers, patios, trellises, sheds, children, pets, tools, allotments, hanging baskets, urns, garden ornaments, swings, conservatories, skylines, ponds and sunlight.


The smallest aspects of a garden offer potential for an interesting painting: rose heads lit up against a luscious backdrop, patio furniture casting long shadows across the lawn, children frolicking in jazzy costumes around the pool, a cat snoozing on a wall. The secret is to learn how to look at the garden with a fresh eye.

Great Subject Matter for Painting


At first glance, the garden might appear to have little to offer. However, the following steps might unearth hidden treasures within.


Looking at the garden with a fresh eye: Allow the attention to drift and the feet to roam. Take a notebook and make little sketches or notes of anything that might catch the eye, no matter how small or insignificant it might first seem. Losing oneself in this venture might encourage a fresh viewpoint, as though the garden had never been explored before.


Trying a different viewpoint: No matter how familiar a garden might seem, it harbours secrets. Venturing off the beaten track such as paths and lawns, even by a foot or so, will present a new view. A few feet to the left or right can change things radically, so too can kneeling down for a lower vantage point, or even by looking down.


Different lighting: Make a note of where the sun falls in relation to the garden and how the sunlight shifts. Is there a particular part of the garden which is shady, or where a pool of sunlight persists? Revisit certain areas at different times of the day. They will look different again.





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The seasons: The garden is constantly changing and growing. The colours of autumn and spring adorns the garden in totally different ways. Summer intensifies the light and deepens the shadows; winter opens up the sky and makes the garden appear moor roomy. Take the view that the search for inspiration is ongoing. Something might strike the aspiring artist unexpectedly. 
 Composing a Picture

Backgrounds are important to a good painting. It doesn’t have to be colourful or eye-catching. In fact, simple or subdued is often ideal. A sun-dappled lawn, a wooden fence, brick walls, dense foliage or crazy paving would all make interesting backdrops to a focal point.

Opportunity for Still Life Oil Painting


A fuchsia head, a window box, a bird table or a water feature might seem mundane at first, but take on special significance when viewed from a certain angle or particular lighting conditions. Bright sunlight almost always transforms the most ordinary objects. Furthermore, mobile objects such as flower pots, gardening tools, deck chairs and vegetables can all be moved around and utilised as part of a composition.


Oil Painting from Life in the Garden


One does not have to venture far to find interesting subject matter from which to paint. The back garden is a treasure trove of interesting features if looked at in a certain way. Wandering off the beaten track and finding new viewpoints will encourage the artist to look upon the garden with a fresh eye. Revisiting locations at different times of the day, lighting conditions and seasons will open up new possibilities for painting. The garden also offers a selection of interesting backdrops from which to set up a focal point. No matter how ordinary a garden might first seem, it has something to offer the artist.
 Lighting effects at different times of the day (above) will make a particular subject matter look different. From top left, Early morning, noon, late afternoon, evening and overcast.
 This site comprise of pictures and excerpts taken from my 2 art instruction books. Oil Paintings from Your Garden can be purchased direct from the author, or through Amazon.


My other book, Oil Paintings from the Landscape can be purchased direct from Amazon.


© Rachel Shirley 2010