How to avoid "locking the painting in on all sides".
Sometimes when we are painting out of doors, we find ourselves facing a solid wall of trees leading into the part of the landscape that we are really interested in painting. What to do? Obviously, we want to keep the feeling of the place, which seems to require some degree of faithfulness to the reality.
Here is an example that I think suggest ways to surmount the problem.The photo below shows the actual scene. Two medieval tenant farmers' houses nestled in a virtual forest of greenery.,
Looking at this scene, I am sure you can imagine that there was a real possibility of totally enclosing those ancient farm houses in dark green trees.
Here is my solution:
I chose a vertical format for my painting, and included the top of the far mountains plus a bit of sky to help lighten the mood of the painting. The mountain ridge right in front of me was rather flat so I looked to my right and used the more interesting profile. It is important to create an interesting negative space of sky.
I opted to leave the trunks and some foliage on the tree in the foreground white, by painting around the shapes, and then left soft-edged forms at the bottom of the page.
The other major change from the reality was so put some of the warm tones of the roof tops into the forested hills above, as a unifying element.
And there is the question of “should we put in a blue sky” or not? There was a blue sky in this scene as well. I think it works much better with a peachy-colored sky.
This painting could be done with several color plans; but I feel that the challenge is using the real scene and creating a "painting" - rather than faithfully copying just what we see.