John MacDonald

John MacDonald: Creating Dynamic Landscapes


Video Length: 5 Hours
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Paintings … when done well … create an emotional response.

The goal of a painter should be to create a landscape painting that transports the viewer into the scene, where it evokes deep feelings and emotions.

If you paint a snow scene, your viewer should shiver.

A beach scene should let the viewer feel the warmth of the sun, and hear the seagulls.

To paint emotional landscapes, it’s important to study with a master landscape artist who has conquered the nuances of light, the energy of the foliage, and the perfect balance of color — to create an atmosphere where you can tell the temperature just by looking at the scene.

Few painters actually possess these skills, and fewer can teach them.

There is one artist who is a painter’s painter, someone other top artists seek out to take their own paintings to a higher level.

Nowhere will you find that sort of master instruction but with John MacDonald, one of the most successful and prominent artists in North America, and one of the world's great teachers.

John MacDonald is careful to emphasize that there are no secrets or shortcuts provided in this course. Instead, John will offer a fresh approach ... by giving you a deeper understanding of the entire process to create an important and visually stunning work.


John lays out the painting process in three steps:

Concepts you can understand on an intellectual level 
Demonstrations so you can see the concepts take form in practice 
Participation, because the only way you will learn to paint is to paint 
You’ll discover incredible insights that are the keys to mastering any art form. For instance, it’s the value, not the color, that creates the illusion of space, light, and form in a painting; color contrast works only when colors are similar in value; and it’s crucial to see (and paint) shapes, not things. 

Don’t be misled. While this course focuses on the basic elements of painting, and beginners will certainly benefit, each element is covered in such depth that even experienced painters will learn from it. In fact, many of the world’s leading artists seek out instruction from John to help them elevate their paintings to a higher lever.

Any visual artist, regardless of medium or subject matter, can benefit from an in-depth examination of the principles of painting, such as...

Changing your view to acknowledge that every painting is a brand-new invention, a construction, not a copy of what you are seeing 
The hierarchy of importance among the elements in your painting 
Why creating the composition and value structure are the most important components of your piece, and how to create them properly 
How variety and contrast in shapes, values, colors, edges, and details are hallmarks of successful paintings 
Methods to distinguish the important parts you can and should capture in a painting when faced with visual overload 
You’ll find the insights in this video incredibly unique...

John MacDonald is a painter’s painter, and one who will elevate your overall skills by demonstrating these important principles and showing how to make sublime, emotionally appealing paintings.

“A landscape truly seen takes us out of ourselves, reminding us of the brevity of, and our interconnection to, all of life.” 
— John MacDonald

A Significant Shortage of Secrets & Shortcuts

While many of our art courses provide you with insights into the minds of great artists, or unique tools you can use to achieve amazing results. Creating Dynamic Landscapes takes a completely different approach by putting the emphasis on the basic elements of painting and helping artists come to a deeper understanding of the process to create an important and visually stunning work. 

Create Your Personal Painting Process

MacDonald clearly states early on that this is his process. He cautions viewers to use what works for them and ignore the rest. But as he unpacks each step and walks you through, you’ll discover a process for creating incredibly powerful masterpieces, including:

  • Choosing the scene
  • Gathering visual information
  • Editing the information
  • Composing the painting
  • Creating an underpainting to establish the value structure
  • Applying color
  • Manipulating edges, creating details, and finishing

You’ll see how John MacDonald’s process is universally transferable, to any creation.

And, in addition to subjective topics such as personal process, MacDonald provides several practical points, such as how to create color harmony easily and how to set up a non-toxic studio. 
Further, he’ll provide information that can improve any process, including why you shouldn’t rush back to the studio to paint what you’ve seen, and how to use your computer as an aid to help make your paintings capture the memory of the scene, mood, and feeling. 

Learn to Love Landscape Painting (and Beyond!)

No matter what level or type of artist you are, the benefits you can glean from John MacDonald’s deep dive into process are invaluable. While there are numerous lessons that examine specific materials and teach little-known techniques, few explore in such depth the very essentials of painting. Any artist will come to a greater appreciation for and understanding of what makes for a successful painting. Although based in the fundamentals, MacDonald provides tips around subjects even the most expert painters can appreciate, including:

  • Composition, values, color, edges, and details 
  • The pros and cons of using photographs for reference 
  • The pros and cons of plein air painting 
  • Copying photos versus creating a painting 
  • The five components of a painting 
  • Finding a logical and efficient painting process 
  • Choosing a scene 
  • Gathering visual information 
  • Editing visual information 
  • Composing a scene, the do’s and don’ts 
  • Identifying the essential values 
  • The attributes of color 
  • Understanding color keys 
  • Using neutral colors in a painting 
  • Creating edge contrasts 
  • Identifying the essential details 
  • Finishing a painting 
  • Tips for being a more productive and happy painter

Including an Inspirational Interview

To supplement John MacDonald’s engaging five-hour demonstration, you’ll get a lengthy interview with the artist himself and gain invaluable insights into how he works and why he focuses so much on the process, rather than the result. You’ll discover why his subject of choice is landscape, where his inspirations come from, and what it takes to transport a viewer from looking at your painting to experiencing your painting.

Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to explore the fundamentals of landscapes and discover the essence of the process of painting from a true master.

About Your Instructor 

John MacDonald attended Washington University in St. Louis, where he received a BFA in 1979. Following college, he attended a four-month intensive printmaking workshop at the Institute for American Universities in Avignon, France. Returning to the States, he received an MA degree in drawing and painting from Purdue University in 1982. For nearly 30 years, John worked as both a freelance illustrator and landscape painter. He has won awards from Print Magazine and had his work appear in the Society of Illustrators annual show. He now paints full-time. His paintings are held in private and corporate collections throughout North America. His professional memberships have included the Creativity Coaching Association, the Society of Illustrators, the Illustrators Partnership of America, the National Association of Plein Air Painters, the Graphic Artists Guild, and the Oil Painters of America.


Customer Reviews

Based on 62 reviews
John Walter Cherry
A Modern Master

I have a BFA in Painting, Sculpture, and Graphic Art from UCLA (1982). But I learned more about painting from John MacDonald than I learned in three years in Westwood. I have watched his painting video TWICE – that's ten hours – and I plan to watch it again. In the second viewing, I scribbled literally four pages of notes – there's that much substantively useful content here. Listening to his thoughts, watching him mix colors - the very high standards he applies to himself, as he continually adjusts the hue and value of his material – is incredibly informative if you want to be a painter. For example, he explains how the impressionists make their colors vibrate. Just recently I viewed paintings at Boston's MFA and saw them with new eyes. MacDonald helped me see JSSargent and Mary Cassatt in an entirely new light. Throughout, he presents his philosophy of work, of painting, and his thoughts about success and failure. John MacDonald is an OUTSTANDING teacher. One bit of advice: buy the CD, not the streaming service. You'll want to own it, just like a valuable art book.

Mastering Values & Dynamic Landscapes

Maybe the best instructor out there. His obvious commitment to teach, explain and demonstrate produces a remarkable learning experience.

Bill Delaney

John is a solid teacher along with great execution.

Tomas Hall
Enjoyable and informative

John is a very engaging explainer of the process. His landscapes are beautiful and he leaves no stone unturned in terms of explaining how he goes about it and achieves such stunning results. I personally found too much 'finger painting' involved in the process of getting that ethereal soft focus look in the background, but the results do justify the means. Also really helpful in terms of his breakdown of the value matching process to set up the entire work. Would recommend.

Linda Lea Bertrand
A real star

This is a comprehensive video. He explains everything, materials, design, composition, value structure and technique. Easy to follow along. Demonstrates every concept and technique that he uses. Very informative motive and enjoyable.