Project example created by CJ Mitchell.
Project example created by CJ Mitchell.

Scenic View

I’ve always enjoyed landscape paintings because they bring nature inside and allow me to travel to beautiful places. Landscapes have been the subject of paintings for many centuries. The landscape depicts the scenery of the land. Landscape paintings relate to many genres and themes, whether those be classical, historical, biblical, or mythical. These paintings can transport you to these places, making you feel like you are in the scene taking in all of the beauty around you. Over time, landscapes became interpretive, with the artist creating a new visual language in a scene that was familiar yet reimagined. Great impressionist artists like Renoir, Monet, and Van Gogh made landscape painting more tactile with the use of thick brushstrokes and movement. In this art activity, we will look at the work of Shara Hughes, a contemporary artist that interprets landscapes by following her intuition rather than a fixed plan. She is not interested in representing a specific landscape, but in creating a landscape with a painter’s tools: color, line, shape, texture. You will reimagine landscapes using color, shapes, and textures.

Ages: Grades 3 – 12+ (8 years to Adults)

Time It Takes: 60 –120 minutes

What We Are Going To Do: 

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Mixed Media

You’ll Need: 

  • Image of a landscape for Inspiration (or go outside!)
  • Oil Pastels or Crayons
  • Tempera or Acrylic Paint
  • Markers (optional)

Before We Start: 

Shara Hughes, I Needed a Hug, 2018. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 14 x 11 inches. Collection of Jane Harrison, South Kent, CT. Courtesy the artist; Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; and Pilar Corrias, London.
Shara Hughes, Peep Show, 2018. Oil, ink, and acrylic on canvas, 58 x 50 inches. Private Collection, New Jersey. Courtesy the artist; Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; and Pilar Corrias, London.
Shara Hughes, Big Light, 2021. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 48 x 40 inches. Courtesy the artist; Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; and Pilar Corrias, London.

Let’s look at images of Shara Hughes’ work at CAM. Specifically, we will look at images of I Love You, I Love You Not (2020), Peep Show (2018), and No One Way 2 (2020).

The artist does not have a specific place in mind when she begins a painting or a print and does not prepare with a sketch or a plan. She begins with applying materials (usually ink, paint, or pastel) to the canvas or paper. Then she follows her intuition to build a landscape around these marks, focusing mostly on process or flow. Her artworks have many layers, textures, tones, colors, and shapes. The artwork is intriguing, from the smallest to the largest. There is a lot to take in and notice about these landscapes. 

Think About

  • What do you notice about the artist’s use of color, shape, and texture?
  • Where is the viewer standing in relationship to the art: above, below, or right in front? What techniques does the artist use to give the viewer that perspective? 
  • What words would you use to describe Shara Hughes’s artwork? 
  • Does any of the art make you think of places you have been or places you have seen in real life, in pictures, or movies?
  • Why do you think the artist chooses to follow her intuition rather than to make a plan?

Art Activity

1. Find an image of nature that inspires you or that you like. If not an image or picture, think of a place in nature that you like—or even go outside! Draw a sketch of that place with a pencil on paper.

2. Then go over your drawing with oil pastels or crayons. I used blue and black oil pastels, black for the solid objects and blue for lighting and shadows. 

3. Now begin to paint or color depending on the medium that is used. Acrylic paint is used in the demonstration. Use the blue and black lines as the guide. The example above is made using colors similar to what is found in nature, but feel free to experiment with color like Shara Hughes. 

4. Continue to paint or color, applying layer by layer in the landscape. 

5. Paint until it feels complete. Only you will know what that feels like! 

Writing Activity

  • Now take the opportunity to write a few words about your magical landscape.


  • Write a brief description of your magical place.