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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Three Tips for Dealing with an Uninteresting Foreground

'Beneath the Autumn Sun'            11x14         pastel          ©Karen Margulis
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Foregrounds in a landscape can give me fits.  I don't want to make it too busy and detailed  or it might stop viewers from moving beyond it.  I want to invite them into the painting.  In my hesitation to put too much stuff up front, I am often left with a big boring foreground area. It's a dilemma.

I noticed that some of my students were struggling with this same dilemma at last week's workshop. It happens often especially when working from photos.  They were seeing all of the grasses and other 'stuff' and were creating a barrier with all of the grasses they were putting in.  I wanted to show them how to balance boring and empty with the right amount of grasses.  So I took out some paper and did an impromptu demo.  Here are the tips I tried to illustrate:

  • Plan the foreground area. I try to visualize what I want to happen in the foreground. How will I break up a big empty space? How will I arrange the elements?  How can I use these elements to lead the viewer through the painting?  If I wait and try to wing it I don't have as much success than if I had an idea of how I will treat it.  I sometimes like to block in a path of dark that will get covered up but will subtly move the eye back into the distance.
  • Less is More when it comes to grasses and flowers and other bushy stuff. Keep in mind that our brains will fill in the missing pieces if we suggest just a few. A few blades of grass or flowers placed in the right places are more effective than worrying about putting in every blade of grass. Be mindful of where you plant things. Avoid putting in random flowers. Put them where they add to the painting.
  • Don't give up on a foreground that isn't working. Some of the foregrounds I am most pleased with come from the second or third attempt. If my foreground ends up too busy I will often brush it out or spray it with fixative or wet it and try again. This often gives me a textured look that suggests grassy stuff without having to paint them!  (I sprayed this demo with workable fixative)
Do you do anything special to deal with a boring foreground? I'd love to hear about it!


Judy said...

thanks for the ideas

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info re foregrounds. I like to use the side of a Terry Ludwig also a rubber shaper with a point to manipulate and move the color to place a few grasses here and there.
I have a blog and would love your input.
It is a food art blog.
Thank you, Sandi Graham