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.


Kevin Mizner said...

Good pointers, and a lovely painting!

Patty Meglio said...

Thanks, Kevin.

martinealison said...

bonnes explications... Bises

Patty Meglio said...

Merci, martinealison!