Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Color and Aerial Perspective in the Sky

The sky itself, the lightest element in a picture, has different gradations, which causes variations in color and value from its highest point to the horizon. The reason for this is that the atmosphere for the sky at its highest point is the shortest distance with the clearest view. At the horizon, since the distance is longer, there are more “sheets” of atmospheric particles made up of gases between our eyes and the horizon. Like the colors of a rainbow, the zenith is a violet blue, as your eye turns toward the horizon, it changes to a truer blue, then a green-blue, a yellowish green, and finally a small strip of smoky warm rose nearest to the horizon, all the while lightening in value.  
An exception to this is sunrise and sunset, where the horizon takes on more oranges, reds, and purples because of the sun.
The above picture is an exaggeration of the color changes in the sky under sunny conditions.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Aerial Perspective

Aerial Perspective is the change in appearance on items brought on by atmospheric conditions and its effect on color distinction, contrast, value, and hue. The atmosphere is made up of varying densities of gases composed of water particles that are perpetually suspended, similar to a mist. These gases act like slices of films rather than a solid body that collect in layers between our eyes and the distant horizon. The more slices of films between us and the horizon, the more it will affect the hue, contrast, and strength of the items in the distance.  It is said that all colors become cooler as they recede from the eye, except white.  Cooler means that colors take on more blue as the distance increases.
For blue to increase, some colors must decrease. The first hue to decrease is yellow. Yellow alone and in mixtures such as brown, green, and orange, decreases as the distance increase, while violets and blues increase in intensity. For very long distances, such as those found in the mountains and large open spaces of the western United States, after the loss of yellow, reds will then also decrease and blues will finally prevail. Along with the change of hues, all things will become lighter in value as they recede from the eye.  
What this means to an artist is that care should be taken to paint the nearer scenery darkest and most powerful in color and have more yellow and red, while items near the horizon should be painted in lighter values, and contain more blue, and less yellow, and desaturated reds. Edges should be softer, contrasts less distinctive. Whites, the exception, get warmer and darker as they recede.
This is my painting of Camden, Maine, from the park overlooking the harbor. The nearest trees were bright with autumn colors, but as the landscape recedes, the colors become lighter and the yellows start to disappear. The far horizon colors are purples and blues, devoid of all yellow.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Artist Reception, Woodbridge Library

On Saturday, December 11, I had an artist reception at the Woodbridge Town Library, in Woodbridge, CT. It was a nice day, and I suspect that there were a lot of people out shopping for Christmas. I brought cupcakes, cheese and crackers, and drinks. A steady stream of visitors came by to see the 21-piece collection of paintings and to visit, so it was a nice time. I took advantage of the time to explain my art to some interested viewers, and I think that they appreciated it.
It’s important to educate the public about art and about your style and process. For example, I prefer to stretch and prepare my own canvas and linen, and my own boards. It takes time, but it is worth it to me. My style has evolved to become modern impressionist, influenced by some modern painters in the New England area and by European and American art of the 19th and 20th centuries.

While it is certainly a challenge, I also prefer to paint outdoors whenever possible, en plein air. There’s just nothing like the aroma of a soft summer breeze over a wild country field, the deep earthy dampness and pine scent of a New England woods, and the fresh ocean breeze rushing in to the shore. It really sets the mood for a painting and I think that my paintings are more successful when I am able to be on location. Sure, you have to deal with strong winds, sudden rain, and frigid temperatures sometimes, but you can also experience the warm, gorgeous sunny days that make you never want to stop painting.

While I didn’t make a sale at my reception, I did get a tip about a gallery to check out in a nearby town. A trip to the gallery on Sunday proved to be promising. I will go back on another day and speak with the owner about representing my art.

I consider it a successful reception, all in all. It was fun visiting with people and talking about art, and I was able to get some helpful feedback about my work and my progress. The library will continue to exhibit my paintings until December 30th in their beautiful meeting room. If you are in the area, come by and see it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Finding Vanishing Points When Painting Outdoors

According to Wikipedia, a vanishing point is a point in a perspective drawing to which parallel lines not parallel to the image plane appear to converge. The number and placement of the vanishing points determines which perspective technique is being used. The concept was first used by Renaissance artists such as Donatello, Masaccio and Leonardo da Vinci.

It is very important when painting outdoors to establish your vanishing points with objects, especially when painting buildings and structures. If you do not figure out your vanishing point early in your composition, your structure’s drawing may sit incorrectly and no amount of change, including values, painting technique, or even a great composition can fix it.
In my painting, "White Silo," the vanishing point is actually outside of the painting's left edge.

"White Silo" by Patty Meglio

Suppose that you are painting a building from a side view. A quick and easy way to figure out your vanishing point is to use your arms and feet as measuring devices. To do this with a building, face your building, and turn your left foot to line up parallel with the left side of the building. Raise your left arm and point it in the same direction as your foot, at eye-level. If you draw lines along your arm and from your foot outward, the point at which the lines meet will be your vanishing point. Do the same on the right side, with your right foot pointing outward parallel to the building’s right side, and your arm sighted along your eye-level looking towards the right. You now have two vanishing points from which you can measure the correct proportion of the sides of your building.
"The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci used perspective in this painting to draw the viewer’s eyes to Jesus as the star of his painting.

Da Vinci photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Finding Your Horizon Line

Perspective is a very important thing to grasp if you are a landscape painter, or for that matter, for any type of subject, even still life. However, to properly figure out vanishing points, aerial perspective, and reflections, you must know where your horizon line is. Understanding how to find the horizon line and to line up buildings and other objects properly to get the correct perspective is something that a lot of artists forget to do once they set up their easels. It’s very tempting to just throw some paint on the canvas and guess at the proportions, but you will end up spending more time scraping paint off and redoing your work if you don’t. Or, you will be disappointed at the results and not realize why it just doesn’t look right.

The first thing that you should do after you prepare your canvas is find the horizon line. To do this, you will need a straight object like a pencil or flat sided stick for measuring. I use a square edge dowel that is marked off with colored lines at one-quarter inch intervals. This dowel is about 12 inches long, with different colored marked lines for every inch. I use the different colored markings to measure and compare proportions of items in my picture. To find the horizon line, hold the stick or pencil out horizontally as straight as possible in front of you at your eye level. This will be your horizon line. If you are looking out from a high vantage point, your horizon line could actually be in the sky. Likewise, if you are looking towards a high point in a land mass, your horizon line will often be below certain aspects of the land mass or object.

You might want to do a few quick thumbnail sketches to figure out your design and where you would like to put your horizon line on the canvas. In most cases, it is best to avoid cutting the picture in half by centering the horizon line on your canvas. When you are ready, use a thinned transparent oxide red or brown or burnt sienna and draw the line, keeping in mind where your center of focus will be in your picture.

For my painting, Ship's Harbor, Maine, the horizon line is marked in yellow. This line was at my eye level from where I stood. I placed it high on my canvas so that I could focus on the rocks and grasses nearby and also so that I could include some of the water.