Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Illusion of Depth

Once There Were Buffalo (detail)

An illustrator asked me for a critique of his work a couple of weeks ago. One of the things I noticed was the lack of depth in his work. Depth is when you create the illusion that one object is further from your eye than another object or that two objects next to each other are actually much further apart. The appearance of depth is caused by the amount of atmosphere between two objects. Atmosphere, generally consists of moisture, dust and pollution. This causes darks to become lighter the farther they are from your eyes and lights to become darker the farther they become from your eyes. I paint from back to front. Meaning background, mid ground and then foreground. I mix my background colors more toward the color of the sky and the values more neutral. As an added measure I will wait until the background is dry and then take a medium value color from the sky background and go over the whole thing with a thin wash. Sometimes I'll interpret the background as having several layers and will put different layers of wash to create that effect. This will not work on a sunset since the color blue often gets filtered out as the sun goes down. The thicker the atmosphere is (i.e. dust, fog, humidity, rain, smoke, sea spray) the fuzzier the edges and detail of far off objects will be. This can easily be seen in maritime paintings. One of my favorite contemporary artist, Robert Bateman, is a master at creating mood with the use of depth. http://www.robertbateman.ca/art/arttitlepage.html

Lonely Are the Brave
I divided the background into four layers, the far off hills, the trees on the far side of the river, the opposite river bank and the ground that the pinto is standing on.

Cuttin' Through the Dust (detail)

This was one of the driest summers during my time in AZ. The dust (and manure) went air born like talcum powder.

"Teetering Peaks", Magic the Gathering card art

In this illustration I exaggerated the narrow depth of field because of the small reproduction size of the trading cards. The terrain reminded me of the Tonto National Forest, northwest of Phoenix. Very coyote and roadrunner.

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