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  • Leontien van Oord

Exploring the Essence of the Landscape - the Fine Line between Realism and Abstraction

Exploring landscape painting

The serene beauty of nature is a great source of inspiration for my paintings. For the personal project in my first year of painting at the Arendonk Academy, I therefore focused on further exploring the landscape and especially on the question: How far can you go in abstracting a landscape? When does a painting retain its recognisability as a landscape? In other words, where is - for me - the line between realism and abstraction? With these questions in mind, my journey of discovery began.

Markdal at sunset
Markdal at sunset

The world of evocative art: tonalism

In my search for answers, I found inspiration in tonalism, an art movement that emerged in America in the late 19th century. Contemporary artists, such as David Sharpe and Dennis Roberts, know how to evoke the suggestion of a tree, a body of water or a path with a few brush strokes. This fascinates me and prompted me to further explore the boundary between realism and abstraction.

David Sharp Dennis Roberts

Exploration with different media

While exploring the essence of the landscape experiments with values, shapes, composition, materials and colors brought me closer to finding the fine line between realism and abstraction. The basis for my project was the Markdal, a beautiful nature reserve between Ulvenhout and Breda. I started exploring the landscape using different mediums and techniques, such as pencils, ink, grayscale markers and chalk. Through these studies I learned to better understand the forms and compositions.

Markdal explorations in pencil, marker and ink

Notan - harmonic simplification in two values

After the initial steps in exploring the essence of the landscape, I created a 'notan', which is a Japanese design concept that strives for harmony by using only two values: light and dark, often black and white. The resulting simplified images still retained the recognisability of the landscape. Puzzling with pieces of paper in search of a balanced composition has taught me a lot and opened new doors of creativity.

Notan Markdal

The power of color

After the preliminary studies in black and white, it was time to add color. I started with watercolor, followed by acrylic and pastel studies, as well as a collage of magazine clippings. In these works I kept the essential elements of the landscape, so that they were still recognizable as the Markdal. But I wanted to take it further. I let go of the composition and omitted details. What remained was an almost abstract image, in which colorful bands and the play of light and dark still reflected the soul of the landscape in my opinion. These experiments showed me the power of color and values in preserving the recognisability of the landscape.

Markdal studies in bright colors

The abstract landscape

In the last phase of my project I elaborated on these abstract works. With my favorite color palette of burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, yellow ocher and titanium white I made small abstract studies. Simplified compositions, light and dark and subtle color accents were the key words here. Despite the lack of detail and recognizable landscape elements, these works still evoked the feeling of an (abstract) landscape for me. The line between realism and abstraction faded in these works, and allowed me to show the essence of the landscape using a serene harmony between form and color.

Abstract landscapes in natural and earthy tones

Finding the fine line - a personal journey of discovery

My pursuit of simplifying the landscape has led me to a delicate balance between realism and abstraction. This project has taught me valuable lessons, encouraged me to explore new techniques, materials and perspectives and made me realize once again that I can use my creative freedom to capture what I see and feel. My insight into the balance between realism and abstraction has developed further, resulting in attractive abstract images that may not exactly reflect reality, but - to me - are still recognizable. Exploring the essence of the landscape and finding the fine line between realism and abstraction is a personal journey of discovery, in which every artist finds his or her own balance.

Embark on your own adventure!

I invite you to start your own journey, to explore the world of landscape and discover where your fine line lies between realism and abstraction. Dare to experiment, simplify and create with an open mind. Be inspired by the beauty of nature and let your brush do the talking. Who knows what beautiful masterpieces will result from your creative journey?

Have fun!


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