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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How to Deal with a Common Foreground Challenge

'Some Distant Island'             8x10          pastel             ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase $135 here 
Foregrounds should be easy.  It's the rest of the painting that requires the work and thought. All we need to do is put in some grasses and stuff and we have our foreground!  Wrong!  Foregrounds can be challenging.  If you have too much stuff you can create a barrier or fence keeping the viewer from entering the painting. If you don't have enough stuff you have a boring space that can take away from the rest of the painting. It's a balancing act.

A common foreground challenge occurs in a landscape with grasses....marshes, meadows, prairies, fields.  Often the reference photo shows a dense area of grass....lots of blades of grass marching across the foreground forming a fence of grass.  See my photo below.

If we fall into the mode of copying the reference exactly as we see it we might end up with a solid band of grass across the bottom of the painting.  If we take it even further and paint many blades of grass we might end up with a fence of grass.  This fence is a barrier. It makes it difficult for the viewer to move into the painting to see what is behind the fence.

What can we do to avoid the fence?

  • We need to give ourselves permission to make changes to the reference. Just because the grass is across the bottom in the photo doesn't mean we have to have it the same way in our painting.
  • We need to find a way to invite the viewer into the painting. We can create an opening in the grass....a subtle break up of the solid shape of grasses to allow some of the water to flow down. This peek at the water acts as a path for the eye....it invites the viewer into the painting...calling them to follow.
  • This path for the eye can be obvious like water or a road or it can be suggested...more about that tomorrow.
This painting is 8x10 on Uart paper with a tonal alcohol wash underpainting. The foreground was created by applying pastel and spraying it with workable fixative...repeated a few times until I got the shapes and detail I wanted.


Judy Bakerj said...

I am going to remember this. I'm guilty of putting down what I see, so loved your post, as always. Thanks!

Susan Williamson said...

Thank you for taking the time to write about. This. So true

Anonymous said...

Your info is valuble! But what fixative do you use? And how?

Karen said...

Thank you!
I use Blair low odor fixative and spray it lightly on the area I want darkened.