Landscapes to a Tee: The Art of Golf Course Landscapes
Joshua C. F. Smith is in the rarefied field of golf landscape artists. As part of National Golf Month in August, we caught up with him for a behind-the-scenes look at how he captures the natural beauty of a golf course landscape in his paintings.
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GD: What elements of the natural landscape have the most influence on the painting? JS: The best golf courses are laid out and found on great land. In golf terminology, we call it “links land” which is land considered not good for farming or agriculture. It’s usually near the ocean and very sandy. Sand is really good ground for golf because the ball bounces and water drains well. It’s much better than golf on clay soil. In the dark ages of golf design, they built “cut and fill” courses, bringing in and moving a lot of dirt, which just doesn’t work well. The vast majority of the best courses are within a couple miles of the ocean on sandy soil.
GD: Do you plein air paint or do you paint from photographs? JS: Most of my work has been done from photographs, but I’ve recently been doing more plein air painting, where I can do small paintings in a short time right on site. With plein air, you’re basing reality on light and colors that you’re actually looking at. In photographs, the colors aren’t as real. The dark areas are usually too dark. You can really develop a painting better when you’re painting it from real life. It’s a bonus to be outdoors at all hours because you can see how one scene will look so different as the light changes during the day. With plein air painting, you could paint the same view at different times of day and it would look very different.