The Secret to Great Landscape Drawings

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As long as people have been making art, the landscape has been part of it. Whether it’s desolate fields or a bustling metropolis, we have a natural desire to capture the world around us. Of course anyone who's ever put pencil to paper knows that's not necessarily easy to do. But one key principle goes a long way in taking your landscapes from "meh" to majestic (and it works in any medium!).

Find your focus

Here's the magic rule: When starting your landscape drawing, select a single subject in your composition (ideally something in the foreground) to focus on. It can be one plant, building, bird — anything about the scene that strikes your fancy. This will give the rest of your drawing something to relate to, and it'll ensure the scale of the landscape is correct. Trust me, this simple starting technique changes everything.

Step 1: Start with the focal point

Decide what your focal point is, and draw that first. Once you've done that, you can start filling in the space around it. I picked Joshua trees in the foreground for the focus point here.

After sketching the trees in pencil, I was ready to think about the rocks behind them. How big was the rock compared to the stalk? How many rocks fit between the right side of the tree and the edge of the page? These are the kinds of questions you’ll want to ask as you lay out your drawing, and having a focal point will help spark them.

At this point, just sketch the outlines of objects on the page. We'll shade soon.

Step 2: Simplify the scene as you go

As you're drawing, look at the landscape with an editor’s eye. To simplify your drawing, you’ll want to edit some things out, like that stray bush or the distracting telephone line. This keeps your composition from feeling too muddled.

When you’re first starting out, just focus on the essential parts. Then once you have that down and you're feeling comfortable with drawing landscapes, you can start to add more complicated elements.

Step 3: Start shading and adding details

Time to throw some shade! Start with the focal point of your drawing, adding the details you see and shading them accordingly. Then move on to the other parts of the composition. They'll have less overall detail than the focus of your drawing, which is what differentiates them. Finish your landscape drawing with the background and enjoy your newfound skill set!

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The Secret to Great Landscape Drawings