Monday, March 28, 2016

A Tip for Creating Depth in a Landscape Painting

'Blue Meadows'          8x10       pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $150
I am always amazed at the ability artists have to create a feeling of depth in a landscape painting. After all we only have paint and a flat surface. The depth is only an illusion but a very magical one when it is done well.  Learning the principles of aerial or atmospheric perspective and linear perspective is the key to creating believable depth. Putting them to practice is another matter.  I have a tip that helps remind me that creating depth is in my power!  Here is a mini demo with my tip and thoughts:


For today's bluebonnet meadow painting I choose to do a dry wash and block in the big shapes with a combination of the correct values and local color. I use masses of blue to help me suggest the masses of flowers. I am working on Uart 500 sanded paper.


I soften the first layer with a piece of pipe insulation foam. Once everything is soft and out of focus it allows me to decide where to put the detail. Next comes the additional pastel layers and here is my tip for creating believable depth:

Start at the top and work your way down. 

What this means is you begin with the sky and then address the most distant landscape features first and move to the middle ground and finish with the foreground.  This seems to be the best way for me to remember to make changes at each plane of the landscape according to those principles of aerial perspective....lighter, cooler, less contrast, less detail, less intense color, smaller shapes, overlapping shapes....

As you move forward it is easy to make these adjustments to create the magic!


The distant mountains are cool, dull and fuzzy. Then I move to the distant trees and grasses.


The dried  grass in the distance is a duller and lighter yellow. I apply my pastel with narrow horizontal strokes to set it back into the distance.
I use more intense and warmer yellows as I move closer to the foreground.


Everything in the foreground is still out of focus. I have to decide where I want the most clarity. I darken the immediate foreground with fixative. I don't want the detail to be right at the bottom of the paper. The dark foreground lets the eye move into the painting.


I choose a few of the flower masses in this foreground to mid ground area and use more intense colors and more detail. Working from front to back allowed me to slow down and make thoughtful choices!

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2 comments:

Leora LaGraffe said...

I love this painting, and this post! I really struggle with trying to create depth in paintings - basically I fail at it - this is a great lesson for me to read and re-read and try to apply to my efforts at painting!

robertsloan2art said...

This is a great demo! I was looking at a distant mountain yesterday while I was out, marveling at the beautiful mid-value teal all the deep darks n its forested sides turned. Similar trees on hills were nearer and of course we were driving through hills so I saw five or six layers of recession at once depending on where the truck was.

It can be that dramatic in reality! Read this and then go outside, take a look at your own views. If you don't have mountain forests for that deep distance, look at what happens to distant buildings as you approach them!