Easy Acrylic Painting Ideas: Abstract Landscape

Updated on November 28, 2017
Robie Benve profile image

Robie is an artist who believes in the power of positive thinking. She loves sharing art tips and bringing people joy through her paintings.

Simple Landscape Painting Step by Step

Step-by-step tutorial of how to paint a simple and contemporary landscape with acrylic paint.

I have painted mine on a 12" x 12" stretched canvas.

The use of complementary colors and simplified shapes makes this painting energetic and modern.

Abstract Landscape Painting Tutorial
Abstract Landscape Painting Tutorial | Source

What you will need:

  • Canvas
  • Acrylic paint, the colors used here are:
    - Burnt Sienna
    - Raw Sienna
    - Hansa Yellow Light
    - Naphtol Red Medium
    - Titanium White
    - Ultramarine Blue
    - Cerulean Blue
  • Brushes
  • Water
  • Paper towel

How to Paint an Abstract Landscape with Acrylics

Want to paint a landscape? An easy way to go is to paint horizontal bands of color: the viewer’s brain will read them as a landscape, guaranteed.

Try several thumbnail drawings with horizontal shapes of different values, you’ll see how they all read as landscapes.

Generally Speaking...

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Thumbnail Drawing Examples

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pen thumbnailsWatercolor thumbnails
Pen thumbnails
Pen thumbnails | Source
Watercolor thumbnails
Watercolor thumbnails | Source

Step One: Ground Color

Many times it is hard for artists to come up with ideas on things to paint.

A white canvas can be quite intimidating, and the fear to ruin a painting or waste supplies can be so strong that no idea sounds good enough to actually attempt it.

  • Starting from a tinted canvas eases a bit that fear of making mistakes. The same way you are painting over the ground color, you can paint over any mistake.
  • Getting rid of the white of the canvas, also makes the painting feel finished much sooner.
  • If you leave some of the ground color peaking through the final painting here and there, it will create a harmonious and unified look.

Step One: Paint your canvas of any color that will complement your color scheme.

Tinted Canvas
Tinted Canvas | Source

Start Your Painting on a Tinted Canvas

It is much easier to start painting on a tinted canvas. You can paint your canvas of any color that will complement your color scheme.

I used a canvas that I had painted with the colors left on my palette at the end of another painting session, and it worked out fine for this project.

Some unevenness in the background paint is fine, it will add some texture to the painting.

Step Two: Set the Horizon

Where to Place the Horizon Line

I love to follow the Rule of Thirds, when in doubt of where to place things in my paintings the rule of thirds always can help me decide.

The horizon line is going to be your focal point, so you want to place it on one of the lines dividing the canvas into thirds. Avoid placing the horizon exactly in the middle, it makes difficult to create an interesting composition.

Paint a dark line at the 1/3 line. I picked the lower third, but you could use the upper third as well.

In my landscape I used complementary colors, to create a contemporary and abstract feeling.

To lern more about the rule of thirds, check out this article.

Paint the horizon line at the 1/3 line, and paint "ground" and "sky" using complementary colors in the families of blue and orange.
Paint the horizon line at the 1/3 line, and paint "ground" and "sky" using complementary colors in the families of blue and orange. | Source

Complementary Colors Make Each Other Pop

Once you have your horizon in, start painting the two big masses of "ground" and "sky". I used complementary colors in the families of blue and orange.

The neat thing about using complementary colors is that they make each other pop, a color seems brighter when placed near its complement.

For the ground I used Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Hansa Yellow Light, Naphtol Red Medium, and Titanium White. For the sky I used Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, and Titanium White.

The darker blue areas are obtained mixing Ultramarine Blue with Burnt Sienna.

Step Three: Create a Focal Point

Abstract landscape - For the ground I used Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Hansa Yellow Light, Naphtol Red Medium, and Titanium White. For the sky I used Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, and Titanium White.
Abstract landscape - For the ground I used Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Hansa Yellow Light, Naphtol Red Medium, and Titanium White. For the sky I used Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, and Titanium White. | Source

Focal Point Painting Tips

Since your focal point is on the horizon line, make sure you have the following happening in your painting's horizon:

  • The Darkest Dark.
  • The Sharpest Edge.
  • The Strongest Value Contrast.

Step Four: Highlights

Paint Highlights Last

As a final touch, paint the highlights of a painting.

In this case I thought I would make it look like a sunset - or a sunrise, who knows - and added yellow and white at the horizon.

I also painted a wash of the sky and ground colors lightened up with white, to create some changes in value and carry more attention to my hot spot.

Final Landscape Painting
Final Landscape Painting | Source

Tips on How to Find Painting Ideas

When looking for ideas on what to paint I recommend doing one or more of the following:

  1. Create a Reference Material Binder. Collect photos, drawings, pages from magazines and calendars that you find inspirational and love for one reason or the other. It could be the color combination, the subject matter, the composition. Include original photos taken by you, these are the best reference because you are sure you are not incurring into copyright infringements when you paint them.
  2. Doodle and Sketch. Take pen and paper, and without worrying about the final results, start doodling and sketching. Let your pen go freely, this exercise is not meant to be artwork; it's just for you to warm up, and for your drawing skills to get some practice.
    Sketches could become the inspiration for your next piece, you never know, but for sure they will get the ice broken by getting you to create some form of 2D representation.

For more info on how to find inspiration and ideas for a painting, you may want to read this article.

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Robie Benve


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      • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

        Robie Benve 

        9 months ago from Ohio

        Hi Chuck, currently I write about painting but I don't teach. You can surely earn a lot by reading instructional painting articles, however the best recommendation I have for you is to paint, paint, paint, with a teacher or alone. Thanks for your comment.

      • profile image


        9 months ago

        I only paint in watercolor..... will your workshop help me?

      • profile image


        14 months ago

        Hi Kristen....it is so pretty and looks easy....so I am going to do it....tahnks

      • profile image

        Morrissa Clanahan 

        16 months ago

        Loved your tutorial

      • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

        Robie Benve 

        2 years ago from Ohio

        Hi Kristen, that's great to hear! :D Glad you found it easy and useful thanks a lot.

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 

        3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Robie, this was so beautiful and easy to do to paint a landscape painting, even with a sunset in the background. Voted up for useful!

      • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

        Robie Benve 

        3 years ago from Ohio

        Thanks a lot DarrylGreen for your kind comment. Abstract painting is a lot of fun. You make some very good ones! :)

      • DarrylGreenFineAr profile image

        Darryl Green 

        3 years ago from Phoenix AZ

        That was well written. Good advice on how to do an abstract landscape.

        This is coming from a person who does abstract paintings himself. See


      • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

        Robie Benve 

        4 years ago from Ohio

        Hi rebeccameasley, that's wonderful to hear. :) Give it a try, take chances, be creative, and most of all have fun!


      • rebeccamealey profile image

        Rebecca Mealey 

        4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

        I like these ideas! I have painted a landscape from a photo once.It was a lot of fun. This makes me want to try painting again. Thanks!

      • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

        Robie Benve 

        5 years ago from Ohio

        Hi SaritaJBonita, I did mix the acrylics with a little bit of water, sometimes I add a thickening medium too - acrylics tend to dry quite flat. Thanks a lot for your comment and support. :)

      • profile image


        5 years ago

        Really pretty, I love the simplicity of it. Did you mix the acrylics with water on your palette? I like to use a thickening medium and I tend to gob on the paint to create textures. This would be a change for me, and I think I'll try it!

        Thanks, I always love your Hubs. Voted up and useful, and shared as well... :)

      • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

        Robie Benve 

        5 years ago from Ohio

        Hi celeste inscribed, simple abstract landscapes can really dress a wall and what a conversation piece when your guests find out you did it! :) Happy painting!

      • celeste inscribed profile image

        Celeste Wilson 

        5 years ago

        It just goes to show that we don't need to be Picasso to find our own artistic side. This is so useful, I love painting and am going to give this a go for sure. Voted up

      • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

        Robie Benve 

        5 years ago from Ohio

        Hi Brenda, yes the blank canvas block is similar to the writer's block. You've got to break the ice and start doing something. Painting a colored ground can help a lot. Thanks for reading and your comment. I'm glad you found it useful. :)

      • Brenda L Scully profile image

        Brenda Lorraine Scully 

        5 years ago from Ireland

        this was very useful for me, as i really want to learn to paint, but as you said it is so difficult to stare at a blank canvas, and wonder what to do.

      • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

        Robie Benve 

        5 years ago from Ohio

        Hi Carol, thanks a lot for the great compliments, you are too nice! Happy painting! :)

      • carol7777 profile image

        carol stanley 

        5 years ago from Arizona

        I always enjoy your artsy hubs and learn something new. Lovely painting and well written. Voting up and Pinning in my artwork section.


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