Size: 24″ x 18″ Support: Gallery wrap stretched canvas Description: This is a landscape depicting a classic car from 1934 similar to the one Bonnie & Clyde drove. This painting will not need a frame as the painting extends around the edges of the canvas.
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Artist Comments: This painting is of a vintage Ford V8. The same type car that helped make “Bonnie and Clyde” famous in the early 1930’s. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were notorious fugitives who traveled throughout the central states of North America with their gang during the Great Depression robbing and murdering wherever they went. Their crime spree ended in their car when they were ambushed by Texas lawmen at a roadblock and then shot to death when 100 armor piercing bullets riddled their car. Bonnie and Clyde were buried in separate cemeteries in Dallas. Clyde’s gravestone reads “Gone but not forgotten.”
Today the actual bullet-riddled death car driven by the infamous couple is now on display at Whiskey Pete’s Resort and Casino in Primm, Nevada. There is no admission charge to see the exhibit. For more information about the actual car Bonnie and Clyde met their demise in, visit Roads & Rides. Additional information can be found at Roadside America.
This painting made a “sneak peek” preview appearance on my Facebook page before it was added to my website. A fan who follows my oil paintings named this work of art “Forgotten Roads”. Click the “Like” button in the menu to follow me on Facebook.
Space in art refers to the distance or area between, around, above, below, or within shapes and forms found within a composition. In this discussion we will be taking a closer look at several different ways space is used in art. These are:
Positive and Negative Space
There are two types of space in art: positive and negative. Both positive and negative space are important factors to be considered in every good composition. They occur in both two-dimension and three-dimension art and are complementary to one another. One impacts on and affects the reading of the other.
Positive space is the “occupied” areas in a work of art that is filled with something such as lines, colors and shapes. It is the primary subject matter of a painting; the animals, plants, building, mountain, vase, people, etc., that forms your area-of-interest. It dominates the eye and is the focal point in a composition.
In the example here, positive space (the area in black) is represented as the forms themselves… i.e. the vase, the individual letters, or the words “positive space”. It is the opposite of negative space.
Negative space is the unoccupied areas that surround the subject matter. It is more passive in nature and is defined by the edges of the positive space it surrounds. It is what gives definition to our composition.
In the example, it is the “empty space” (the area in black) or unoccupied areas that lies between objects, shapes and forms within a composition, and is also the space in the background that is not at first noticeable. It goes in all directions and goes on forever. It flows in, around and between shapes and objects.
Do you see the shapes in negative space? These shapes have substance or mass and is not simply the absence of something. This is important to remember. Negative space has weight and mass, and plays an important role in defining your subject.
Negative space is most evident when the space around a subject matter, and not the form itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape. In this case the use of negative space is very much a key element of the artistic composition. In the example above, the negative space forms a shape of two men face to face.
Negative space is important in a composition because it gives balance to positive space by giving the eye a place to rest. This is a basic element that is often overlooked as a principle of a good design.
Two and Three-dimensional Space
Two-dimensional space is found on a flat surface such as a canvas. It has no depth, only length and width. In our example, the image appears flat because all the objects and forms lie on the same plane. There is no feeling of depth. However, the same space can be used to make a two-dimensional artwork appear three-dimensional by giving a feeling of depth. Three-dimensional space has width, height and depth.
When we look at a flat surface and have the sensation of looking at spaces and objects that appear to have depth, then we are receiving and believing a group of visual signals working to create the illusion of three-dimensional shapes and spaces within the painting.
These three-dimensional signals are so common in nature that we are almost unaware of them. Yet in the hands of a skilled artist these 3D cues can be used to create the illusion of three-dimension on a flat canvas surface. This occurs when a sensation of space which seems to have height, width and depth are visually created as it has been done with the vase in the example shown on the right.
The tools needed for creating the illusion of three-dimensional space are:
Changing size and placement of related objects
Relative hue and value
Overlapping objects within your composition is the simplest tool you can use for creating three-dimensional space in your painting or drawing. The effect is achieved by allowing the contour of one form to be interrupted by the contour of another form, so that it looks like one form is physically sitting in front of the other.
Another simple tool for creating the illusion of 3D space is by changing size and placement of related objects. When two shapes are the same size and are placed on the same plane, the image tends to appear rather flat and not have much depth to it. However by simply varying the size and placement of the shapes a greater sensation of depth is created.
As a rule of thumb, larger objects tend to appear closer to the viewer and smaller ones tend to recede into the background. Also objects placed lower on the canvas appear closer in distance than those which are placed higher up.
Linear perspective (a.k.a. converging lines) is a graphical system used by artists to create the illusion of depth and volume on a flat surface. As objects move away from the viewer they appear to grow smaller and converge toward a vanishing point at the horizon line. The effective use of linear perspective creates this illusion of diminishing size by treating the edges as converging parallel lines. The vanishing point may be in any direction the viewer looks, including up, and may be visible (on the canvas) or imaginary (somewhere off the canvas).
Using hue and value to create 3D space on a flat canvas surface are very important cues that tell us whether an object is near by or far away. In general, warm colors or hues tend appear closer, whereas cool hues tend to recede away from the viewer. On the same token, close objects tend to exhibit brighter, richer hues, and/or more contrasting in values, including extremes of dark and light. However, distant objects tend to be either similar or neutral in value, and exhibit grayer hues. Colors that are close in value are perceived as being on or near the same plane, but colors that have strong contrast in value appear on separate planes.
Atmospheric perspectivecombines several tools already described above. This important tool operates when objects that are far away lack contrast, detail, and texture. As objects get farther away, atmospheric perspective shows color gradually fading to a bluish gray and details blurring, imitating the way distant objects appear to the human eye.
As a rule of thumb when using this tool, remember that colors tend to pale and fade as they recede into the distance. Objects become less defined and lack detail.
When used effectively all of these tools to create the illusion of three-dimensional space will create a sense of what is referred to as deep space within your painting. In deep space there are three terms used to describe depth:
Foreground is the area of a painting that visually appears closest to the viewer. It is often located on a lower plane or bottom of the canvas.
Middle ground is space that makes up the distance between the foreground and background of a painting. There is no specific measurement for what the limits are. Typically it is located somewhere on the middle plane of the canvas.
Background is the area of a painting that visually appears to be far away in the distance at or near the horizon. It is usually located on a higher plane of the canvas.
Since a flat surface such as a canvas contains only two-dimensional space, an artist may wish to create the illusion of three-dimension. When an artist begins to cut, divide and rearrange the surface space of a flat surface, the illusion of depth may appear. Even the slightest manipulation of line, value or color will generate the illusion of three-dimensional space.
There are a number of ways to create the illusion of distance or depth on a flat surface. Here are some of those ways:
Objects that are further away, will appear smaller than those close by. Those same objects will also grow less distinct the further away they are. Their colors will fade and blend into the background colors.
Objects which are placed higher on a plane create the feeling of depth or distance. The viewer senses that he or she is standing away from the objects and that there is a large amount of space in the foreground.
Overlapping shapes tend to create a feeling of depth.
Arrangement of lights. When light is contrasted against dark, a sense of depth is felt.
Converging lines. Parallel lines, as they move away into the distance, appear to come closer together to form a vanishing point which may or may not be seen. A good example of this is a road or a path.
Colors. Warm and bright colors appear closer, whereas cool or dull colors tend to recede into the distance.
The flat back shadows and background in the painting on the left provides a good example of the effective use of positive and negative space in this two dimensional painting.
The painting on the right demonstrates positive and negative space in a three dimensional painting. Can you see the positive and negative here? The fish occupies the positive space and the water represents the negative space around the fish.
Overlapping objects is a helpful tool for creating an illusion of 3D. Depending on how it is applied can give a sense of deep or shallow space within a composition.
The Statue of Liberty in the painting on the left overlapping the river and the horizon helps to create a greater sense of depth than the painting that is on the right. On the left we get the sensation of deep space. On the right the space a shallow.
Changing Size and Placement
Changing the size and placement of the objects in these two paintings helps give more depth to the painting. Changing the size of the Indians makes them appear far away in the painting on the left. On the right, the ballerinas are on a higher plane than the ones in the front pushes them farther away into the background.
Can you see how perspective has given the three paintings above a sense of depth?
Both of these paintings have very strong one-point perspective which helps create the illusion of three dimension.
Perspective gives you the sensation that the train is moving away from you and yet it pulls you down the hallway with it in the painting on the right.
Perspective can also make objects appear 3D. The artist of this building used two point perspective to create an object that appears to have volume. Without two point perspective this building would lack depth and appear flat.
Hue and Value
Warm colors pull you up close. Cool colors recede off into the distance. The painting on the left is a good example of this tool in use.
On the right, light moves toward you and darkness moves off into the background.
As objects move off into the distance they become less detailed and more gray. For example notice the horizon and the mountain in these two paintings.
Unity is the hallmark of every good design. It is the final result when all the design elements work harmoniously together to give the viewer a satisfying sense of belonging and relationship. You know unity has been achieved when all aspects of the design complement one another rather than compete for attention. It serves to reinforce the relationship between the design elements and relates them to the key theme being expressed in a painting.
Unity is the end result when all of the design principles (balance, movement, emphasis, visual economy, contrast, proportion and space) have been correctly applied. Everything selected for use in a composition must complement the key theme and must also serve some functional purpose within the design. Achieving unity in your compositions will only result from practicing, knowing and selecting the right visual elements and using the best principles of design to relate them.
Unity within art accomplishes two things:
It creates a sense of order. When a design possesses unity there will be a consistency of sizes and shapes, as well as a harmony of color and pattern. One way this is accomplished is by repeating the key elements, balancing them throughout the composition, and then adding a little variety so that the design has its own sense of personality. Learning to juggle the elements and principles in such a way as to achieve the right mix is a key to good design.
It also gives elements the appearance of completeness, that they belong together. When a composition has unity the design will be viewed as one piece, as a whole, and not as separate elements with the painting. Using too many shapes and forms may cause a design to be unfocused, cluttered and confusing. A well organized design will be achieved by using a basic shape which is then repeated throughout the composition.
When unity is achieved:
The individual elements within a composition do not compete for attention.
The key theme will be communicated more clearly.
The design will evoke a sense of completeness and organization.
To create unity:
You must have a clear objective in mind, one that you wish to effectively communicate.
You must stay focused on achieving the objective and not deviate from it. If there is an element you are considering adding and it does not contribute to the objective then it should not be added to the design.
You must be analytical about your work, maintaining objectivity at all times, and accept critiques from peers, friends, and family members. When the purpose and message you intend to portray is consistently understood the same way by several people then unity has been maintained within your painting.
When you feel your composition is complete, take a step back and observe it with an objective eye. The final test of unity is one in which nothing can be added to or taken away without having to rework the entire composition. The relationship of all the elements should be so strong it would actually hurt the design to add or remove any one thing. When nothing can distract from the whole you have unity.
A word of caution regarding unity. Too much unity without variety is boring and too much variation without unity is chaotic.
Some easy ways to achieve unity in your compositions include:
Similarity: Try repeating colors, shapes, values, textures, or lines to create a visual relationship between the elements. Repetition works to unify all parts of a design because it creates a sense of consistency and completeness.
Continuity: Treat different elements in the same manner. Continuity helps to create “family resemblances” between different forms. This helps to tie them together by creating an uninterrupted connection or union.
Alignment: Arranging shapes so that the line or edge of one shape leads into another helps creates unity in your design. When an element is placed in a composition, it creates an implied horizontal and vertical axis at its top, bottom, center and sides. Aligning other elements to these axes creates a visual relationship which unifies them.
Proximity: Group related items together so that these particular items are seen as one cohesive group rather than a bunch of unrelated elements. Elements that are positioned close to one another are perceived as being related while elements that are farther apart are considered less related. How close together or far apart elements are placed in a composition suggests a relationship (or lack of) between otherwise disparate parts. Using a “third element” such as a road to connect near-by elements with distant ones also helps to create a sense of relationship between the forms which are not grouped together.
Examples of the effective use of Unity
The painting on the left creates a sense of unity by the effective use of repetition. See how the artist has repeated similar forms (ducks) and color (brown) throughout the composition?
On the right grouping of similar objects, proximity was used to create unity within this painting.
The road in this painting is the “third element” that helps to create a relationship between the people in the foreground to the people in the background.
This painting is another good example of how proximity creates relationships between related objects.
IN CONCLUSION: Using The Design Principles
This study on the design principles would not be complete without giving some practical guidelines on the use of the principles of design.
Apply the principles in every assignment.
Don’t apply the principles equally, because one may be more important than another depending on the mood and purpose of the design. One design may be strong in balance, another in proportion, another in movement and so on.
Try to include as many and as much as will work of each principle into each design.
You should always add a bit of your own personality into your art. Without this touch, your work may be well designed, but lack character.
As you become more confident in your ability at achieving unity, then dare to violate one or more of the principles of design to promote growth in your creativity.
Once the designer has an objective in mind, the effective use of the design principles of balance, movement, emphasis, contrast, proportion, and space will aid in the achievement of unity in a work of art. Unity should always be the goal of every artist.
How do you know when unity has been achieved in a work of art?
What is the final test of unity?
Your Next Art Lesson
If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.