Friday, October 5, 2012

The Eye Line Perspective and Composition

I have found that quite a few people have some difficulty applying the eye level (eye line, horizon line) in their painting.  The eye level is found by looking out to the horizon and seeing where that imaginary line sits within the shapes you wish to paint.  Sometimes the horizon is hidden by buildings, stands of trees, hills and mountains.  The horizon is still there somewhere beyond these obstacles.  If you are employing traditional perspective in your concept, then the eye line has some practical uses.  If you look at a three dimensional shape, you will find that the mass moving away from you will diminish in size going towards the eye line.  The part of the shape above the eye line will move away from you down toward the the eye line.  The part of the shape below the eye line will move away from you up toward the eye line.  You can place the eye line anywhere you wish on your canvas.  There are many options for the composition.  I suggest students experiment with their thumbnail sketches as follows;

4 Sample Thumbnails

The thumbnail in the upper left was drawn without a border.  There are 5 shapes, sky, tree line, tree in front of the tree line, shack, and ground.  The relative values are indicated.  The eye line was determined to be at the base of the tree line as indicated by the small arrow.  That means that the eye line is somewhere in the middle of the shack, and closer to the bottom of the tree.

The thumbnail at the upper right shows a landscape canvas outline around the same image.  You can see that the eye line is near the centre of the canvas.  The thumbnail on the lower left shows a canvas with the eye line placed low.  This gives more emphasis to the sky - the shape is larger.  The thumbnail on the lower right is a high eye level version of the same image.  Here the foreground is emphasized, and the sky is eliminated - a simplified image.  There might be more implications to this last trial.  If the canvas is a long portrait type, the viewer will have the feeling that you have painted down almost to your feet.  Or they might feel that there are two points of view in the same painting.  Or they might feel the land is tilted - flattening the picture shapes.

Trying a number of variations will help you determine your concept and further help you determine how you might proceed before you commit to paint and problem solving on the fly.

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