Thursday, May 21, 2009

How to make to your painting have depth

This is a repeat performance that I had on My other Blog. For my first lesson, I thought, there is no point in re-creating the wheel. Especially since I have a show in Lafayette, Indiana coming up and my time is limited. I hope to make these lessons very specific, and yet leave room for you to make your own choices. If you do exactly what I am doing, you will never improve and you will never develop your own style..

How to create depth in a landscape painting!

How to create depth in a landscape painting! I think you are asking the wrong question. When I first started painting, I had that kind of mind set. It is the way most people are taught. The way that I learned, was to have your background colors paler, and to use a blue, gray, or a purple. Muted these colors will recede. Then, as you come forward in the painting you add more intensity to the colors, and add more detail. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t totally discarded this principle. The problem with most beginners is that they are afraid of dark values (dark colors).
When a beginning artist paints in this manner, they tend to end up with a pale and washed out painting. I was a beginner once. I remember not being able to paint green trees. I would start painting the leaves with a green, after all trees look green. Grass is also green, so I would paint the grass a different green. Before you know it, the whole painting was green and totally hideous, because there weren’t any darks. I have an old friend who doesn’t know anything about art.
Years ago, when I wasn’t yet making a living with my paintings, I showed him some of my latest paintings. He said , “They are nice, but why would I want them“. That is the question you should be asking yourself. What can I do to this painting to make somebody want it? Drama! You need drama, not depth. You need the painting to pop. You do this with dark against light. Without a dark, dark, the light isn’t very bright. The brighter you want the light to be, the darker you have to make the dark. If you concentrate on lights against darks, I promise you, your paintings will have depth.
You are going to have to use your imagination here. First, think of a painting as a group of objects or planes. Imagine cutting each object or plane out, and then stacking them from front to back, to make a 3D image. In the back you have the sky, then the clouds on top of the sky. Then the distant mountain, the distant yellow field, the closer green field, etc. Now lets go from the back to the front, and paint this painting in layers of light against dark.


If you focus on the lights and the darks, I promise, you will improve your paintings. If one plane is light, the next plane has to be darker and visa versa. If the plane or object is a middle value, you can go either way. Make it a lot lighter or a lot darker. You choose!


A lot of art teachers give the exact colors you should use, I.E., that color is 2 parts Sap Green and 3 parts indecision. I'm telling you that the color isn't as important as the value. If you concentrate on the value instead of the color you will be much happier with the outcome.


  1. Interesting ... and of course right on target... I think interesting patterns of dark and light ... the notan so to speak.....really "make" the painting...
    I sometimes lose track of that... thanks for the refresher!

  2. This one helped me alot, thank you.


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