Peter Lanyon, JWM Turner and mark making

Peter Lanyon, JWM Turner and mark making

Probably the most famous British landscape painter of all time is Joseph William Mallord Turner who earned his living by painting landscapes across Britain and Europe between about 1790 and his death in 1851. Turner experienced the weather and changes in the light by drawing and painting sketches on the spot. It was his use of colour and his mark making that artists who followed were influenced by, including some of the Impressionists.

Peter Lanyon was born in St Ives and lived in Cornwall nearly all his life. He mostly painted the Cornish landscape around him. Like Turner, Lanyon wanted to learn about the landscape he was going to paint by being out in it in all weathers. There is one big difference between Lanyon and Turner and that was that Lanyon was able to fly over the landscape in a glider.

These two landscape artists were both very influential on other artists who followed them. If you want to understand British landscape painting then these are two artists who you should know about.

Key Stage:

KS2,3&4 Art and Design


This lesson plan can be used:
To start a painting project.
To develop ideas and understanding of processes and materials.
As part of study of any artist using mark making in their work.
As part of study of any artist painting landscapes.
As part of study of significant and important British artists.
As part of individual study

<b>Background - Peter Lanyon </b>

Background - Peter Lanyon

Peter Lanyon lived in Cornwall virtually all his life and was primarily a landscape painter. He is most famous for his pictures of open spaces and high viewpoints. He became a glider pilot in 1960 and this hobby gave him a new view on the Cornish coastal landscape. Some thought his paintings were abstract but he considered himself to be part of the long tradition of English landscape painting. He admired the work of two of the most famous English landscape painters, Constable and Turner. He died in a gliding accident in 1964.

<b>Background - JMW Turner </b>

Background - JMW Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in London and trained at the Royal Academy. where he began making watercolour paintings of landscapes to make money. He travelled all across England and Wales to find locations for paintings. From 1795 onwards Turner toured around drawing on location during the summer and working in the studio in the winter. Turner used a white canvas so the white showed through the colour washes creating a brightness to his colour. His landscape paintings are really studies in light.

<b>Turner: way of working </b>

Turner: way of working

Turner experienced the weather and the light by drawing and painting sketches directly in the open air. He even went to sea to observe conditions in bad weather. There is a story that he tied himself to the mast of a steam ship for four hours during a winter storm so that he could see the sleet, snow and wind first hand. Turner's paintings came out of really understanding and observing the changes in the light.
<b>Lanyon: way of working</b>

Lanyon: way of working

Peter Lanyon worked in a similar way to Turner in that he would work hard to understand the landscape he was going to paint by walking through it, cycling and even flying over it in a glider. Lanyon however didn't travel all over the country to find places to paint he stuck to views of Cornwall he was familiar with. As with Turner a hundred years before his painting is about colour and mark making.

Mark making

Divide an A4 sheet into nine squares. You can download our template if you want. Then using only one colour, one brush and some paint or ink make a different mark in each square. Fill the square best you can with that mark. It is easier if you use different brushes but we want you to practice with just one brush. If you are struggling think about words like calm, windy, wet, soft, bold, timid but mostly concentrate on what marks your brush can make by using it different ways. Download grid_mark_making.pdf

Mark making part 2

Now choose your favourite two marks to develop in two larger boxes. Again you can download our template but this time print it on watercolour paper from an A4 sketchbook if you can. This time you are looking to use a number of similar marks to make a texture in the boxes. Again first time stick to using one colour only.

Download two box sheet.pdf
<b>Mark making cont</b>

Mark making cont

Now self evaluate your work. How different were your range of marks? Did you fall into the trap of starting to draw something with your marks or did it stay as pure mark making? Do you think you could have invented another nine marks with the same brush?
Share your work with others and get another view.
<b>Using the marks</b>

Using the marks

Now use your range of marks to make a simple landscape. Begin by quickly sketching out the composition of the landscape on your paper. Again we used watercolour paper for this as it gives more variety of mark. It doesn't want to be an ambitious complicated landscape that will take hours to paint as this is still an exercise in mark making. We chose a view of two trees in field.

Applying the marks to landscape painting

Now use the range of marks you have invented to quickly paint a simple landscape in one colour with one brush. Here is our example.

Download Two trees landscape.jpg

JMW Turner use of marks

This is a Turner painting of a waterfall and trees. Look closely at the marks Turner has used to create the landscape. You can download a larger image to help. You may notice that in some areas he has put a tonal wash down first and then put the brush marks on top of that.

Download Turner_Landscape with Waterfall_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Peter Lanyon use of marks

This is a Peter Lanyon painting of a storm at Zennor on the coast of Cornwall which uses bold expressive brush strokes to create the violence of the storm. Just like the Turner is uses marks to create the landscape but this is a much less calm scene and the marks are used so that we can almost feel the wind.

Download Zennor Storm_Peter Lanyon_Tate.jpg

Development Activity:

Look at the mark making of Vincent Van Gogh in this painting from September 1888. Analyse the marks used closely and then take the nine frame template and replicate the marks in the boxes. We easily found eight different brush marks in the one painting. You may find a ninth to fill the sheet. Van Gogh has used a sepia (a reddish-brown colour) ink or thin paint to make this work. If you can mix a similar colour for your mark making sheet you should do so.

Download the Van Gogh landscape

Learning Objectives:

Pupils should increase their understanding of the use of mark making in art and design. In addition students can gain knowledge and understanding of the work and approaches of artists, craftspeople or designers from contemporary and/or historical contexts, periods, societies and cultures. Students can refine their ideas as work progresses through experimenting with media, materials, techniques and process.

Research, Notes and Links:

Download this lesson plan