Landscape and environment

Observing and recording nature

This activity involves observing and recording aspects of the landscape or natural environment.

It would be useful preparation for this activity to look at observational drawings of the landscape and environment by different artists, including sketchbook images.

See drawings by Edward Latrobe Bateman, Georgiana McCrae, Tommy McRae, Fanny Anne Charsley, Eugene von Guérard, Louis Buvelot and Russell Drysdale in NGV Collection Online.

Search online for other resources related to using sketchbooks.

  • Visit a landscape that interests you and make a series of at least eight observational drawings of this environment.
  • Drawings should be made in pencil or pen on separate pieces of paper or in a small sketchbook. The aim of this exercise is to observe and record important features of this environment, looking at both ‘macro’ (large scale) and ‘micro’ (close up) views of the landscape.
  • Begin by identifying an interesting view. You might want to use a viewfinder to help you isolate an interesting area.
  • Using line and areas of tone, record the main forms in the landscape. You will not be able to record every detail so focus on the main structures that are important in the landscape.  Aim to accurately observe the shapes and relative size and placement of different elements in order to create a realistic sense of space and scale. Use line and tone to suggest textures of different features such as clouds, vegetation and rocks.
  • Create at least one other view of this scene from a different viewpoint (higher, lower closer or further).
  • Make some more focused studies of interesting details in the landscape. For example, rock formations, particular trees or species of plants.
  • You might wish to add annotations to your drawings to describe colours, light or weather.

A layered landscape

This activity involves creating a mixed media artwork in response to a landscape or environment of personal interest. ‘Observing and recording nature’ (above) could be used as a starting point for this activity.

It would also be useful preparation for this activity to explore artworks related to the landscape and environment by contemporary artists such as John Wolseley, Imants Tillers and Bea Maddock.  Consider how these artists research their subject matter and use a variety of materials and processes to create highly individual responses to the landscape and environment that are richly layered in both visual form and meaning.

  • Research a landscape or environment that is of interest to you to familiarise yourself with the history (including the Indigenous history) of the area, its geographical features and significance, and its flora and fauna. How has the area changed over time? Are there important stories about the area? Is the area under any environmental threat? Has this area been the subject of work by other artists?
  • Compile a list of resources including your own drawings, photographs and observations of the area that reflect the physical, cultural, historical and personal significance of the landscape.
  • Identify which aspects of this landscape and environment interest you the most. Use this as a starting point to create a personal response to the landscape, using mixed media. Your artwork should include a layering of visual elements, media and ideas to create a visually interesting artwork that presents the viewer with a number of perspectives on the landscape. Your work might be two or three dimensional, and may include visual representations of the landscape, text or found objects.
  • Create a class display of the finished results. Discuss what each work communicates about the landscape/environment, and how this has been achieved.

Landscape and environment activities





Psychogeography (1996); (1998) {printed}
from the Psycho series 1996, in The mutant genome project 1994-
type C photograph
120.6 x 258.4 cm (image) 126.9 x 278.8 cm (sheet)
ed. 1/6
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Optus Communications Pty Limited, Member, 1998
© Courtesy of the artist

Landscape and environment

Australian artists explore, observe and respond to the landscape and nature, recording both the environment and our relationship with it.

Go to Landscape and environment stories
Shearing the rams 1890
oil on canvas on composition board
122.4 x 183.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1932


An exploration of identity, including historical and contemporary perspectives on national, cultural and personal identity in Australian art.

Go to Identity stories
William Barak
Figures in possum skin cloaks 1898
pencil, wash, charcoal solution, gouache and earth pigments on paper
57.0 x 88.8 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1962


Land of the Wurundjeri and the making of Melbourne, from marvellous to modern, told by the NGV Collection of Australian art.

Go to Melbourne stories