Cityscapes are great to paint. For best results one should perceive and feel the mass of the buildings, along with the noise and hustle and bustle of human activity. The construction of the buildings is an important variable. The various styles which are influenced by the time period that they were built. Also, the construction materials such as concrete, brick, wood etc. You should not only be able to see all of this but, to feel it as well.
Look for unusual shapes. And note that the lines of buildings are not always as you first observe them to be.Try to refrain from becoming too mechanical; which is easy to do when you are dealing with a lot of lines.
You will find that in cityscapes you will hardly ever be dealing with a level surface. The lay of the land, (in particular the streets), will most often likely be running in an uphill or a downhill lie. This can be a challenge to your perspective knowledge. You just have to try to be a little more observant.
A very common mistake of doing cityscapes is to choose a viewpoint that does not show off the buildings effectively. Showing a flat frontal facade can be somewhat uninteresting. Also, the tunnel vision of looking straight down a street with the vanishing point centered and showing the buildings equally on both sides is not good either. It is best to be off to one side.
You need to show the contrast between the various sizes and textural composition of the different buildings. Better to show the buildings at perspective angles and allowing the buildings to lead the viewer into the painting through the foreground, into the middle distance and then possibly the background.
Sometimes you may find it to be helpful to make preliminary sketches to help you embed a better knowledge and feel of the subject. These preliminary sketches can be quite small allowing you to concentrate on the masses and relative tones. It is best to start with the main interest and masses and then work out from there. You should also pay attention of the light, which plays an important part of the composition; especially the way it falls on the subject. Along with the shadows, it can create many intricate shapes. Note: if you need to work on a piece for more than one day, always do this at the same time each day.
The time of day is important due to the way the light falls on the subject producing the various shadows, cast shadows and highlights. Also, the light from the sun can effect the colors involved.Use this to your advantage.
What to Paint in the Cityscape
Scenic vistas of cityscapes are not always the way to go. Some very interesting paintings can be made of a storefront or maybe an unusual entrance way into a building. And don’t forget the people. Adding people to a street scene adds interest, tells a story and makes the scene come alive. a street scene without people and possibly vehicles as well, would be dull. Practice painting people. Study gesture drawing. Some life classes would be beneficial.