Figures-Landscapes-Still lifes. What's the difference? Not much!
So you wonder why a landscape painter spends so much time painting the figure? Well, from my experience this past year, (this is being said by an unknown author - couldn't find the source) painting from a live model 3x per week, there's not a whole lot of difference painting the landscape. I know this sounds a bit simplistic but for me, the subject is sometimes irrelevant. What's important is what you do with the subject. So, in a sense, painting anything and everything is the same. The process is pretty much identical. There's planning - drawing, composition, value, color, type of light, etc. Then there's the execution - brushwork, edges, major color relationships and subtle color distinctions. Basically the thought process and approach for painting the figure is the same for painting still life or landscape.
I often hear my students say " I just want to be a landscape painter." Well, I hate to say this, but, there's no such thing! Painting is painting... no shortcuts. Study it all. In traditional art schools drawing the figure is essential and part of the curriculum. I did that for several years, but for the past 20+ years I've focused primarily on how color and light create form, atmosphere and distance in still life and landscapes. Last year we began to offer portrait and figure painting at the school so I thought, there's no better opportunity for me to study the figure again. What I didn't realize was how much it would help my still life and landscapes.
In the figure painting you can see that most of the plane changes are color and /or value changes - just enough to turn the form. This is one way to convey volume with an emphasis on color and light. Now look at the still life painting. Even though the subject is completely different the process is identical. Look at the subtle color changes in the egg shells and their cast shadows. They were painted just like I painted the figure - every plane change is a color change. Now the landscape is an overcast California winter scene so the colors are subtler than a bright sunny summer day. But, you can see the color shift in temperature, value, and chroma as the planes recede into the distance. These are the same color shifts that you see when painting the figure. Also take a look at the edges. There are lost edges, soft edges, and hard edges - no difference between the figure, the still life, and the landscape.
So, when studying art you need to study it all.
One subject helps the other...
Painting is painting.