Simplifying complex scenes
Complicated scenes need not be complicated to paint. Most elements in a scene can be reduced to a simple wash of colour, with perhaps a thin layer of shadow and a few marks for details. Usually that is all that is needed to effectively catch the subject.
This sketch of some old store houses and a church spire in Ronda in Southern Spain looks complicated to paint at first glance, but it was in fact quite easy to simplify it down to some basic shapes and flat washes.
Study the details below or click on the picture to see a larger version.
Flat shapes and sharp edges
The buildings show up crisp and strong because of the contrast between the side in shadow and the side in sun. The crisp straight edge between the two sides gives us the shape of the building. Note how the sunny side is just unpainted white paper, and the side in shadow is just one flat wash of blue-purple. The windows are just patches of dark paint with white paper left for reflections in the glass. The roof tops are also just a simple flat wash of colour.
Make windows simple.
These windows are just a blob of paint - nothing complicated there!
Handling vegetation, grass, trees and bushes.
See how the bush on the left and the grassy bank are both painted with just a swish of the brush. Lively marks with a brush full of paint are all that are needed to bring out the character of these elements.
Most foregrounds can be treated in such a simple way.
Skies and features
The sky in this painting is just a blue wash, but even clouds can be rendered very easily by leaving white areas and then adding a little blue-purple at the bottom for shadow.
The church tower here is a complex feature, but has once again been painted very simply with just two washes of paint; one for the light side, and one for the shadow side. A few thin streaks of white paper provide a glint of sunlight on the sunny edges of the turrets.