Delta Dusk, 16 x 20 inches, oil on linen
Since we're talking about atmosphere, here's another Delta painting that takes advantage of moodiness created by heavy atmosphere. Let's see if we can go through the check list of depth-creating tools.
–big value range in the foreground, narrow range in the background. More specifically, darks in front, none in back.
–sharp edges in the foreground, soft edges in the background.
–scaling; representing similar things both in the foreground and back, and making sure it becomes smaller as we go back in the distance. In this case, the strips of land mass and bunches of trees.
–overlap. Things in front overlap things in back. Ya think this is a dumb rule, but I see artists miss the opportunity to do this all the time.
–detail in front, no detail in back.
–activity in front, less in back.
Let's see, what have I left out? Oh, how about color? saturation? hue variations? More in front, less in back? Oh, but wait. I clearly see more color in the sky than in the foreground. How about that, huh?
Well, it's because this painting features the big sky. If I didn't give you enough interest in the sky, you'd never look up there. Instead, you'd just look at the landmass and say, (or I would, anyway) Nice atmospheric perspective, but boy, what a waste of canvas space.
Which brings me to this point. Rules are meant to be broken, but you gotta do it purposefully. Breaking rules by accident (because you don't know them well enough to control them) is not the same as doing so with intent. You may end up with something nice, but that's just getting lucky. Don't get me wrong. Luck is good, but if I relied on that, I couldn't possibly make a living at it.
A little kid who can't read might play with scrabble pieces and come up with a profound statement by accident, but that's not the same thing as a great poet composing grammatically incorrect lines that nevertheless has the power to move people. Not that I'm claiming my paintings move people, but we strive for that kind of excellence, don't we?
So in order to break rules intentionally, you have to first learn them. (damn!) You have to first learn stuff like spelling, grammar, vocabulary and rhetoric before you can compose effectively. Painting is exactly the same!
Here's the good news. The rules are not that complicated. They're logical. The difficult part is paying attention to all the rules all at once. The best way I know to do that, is just practice, practice, practice. Eventually, some of the decision-making processes start to become semi-automatic and you can free up some of your brain power so that it can pay more attention to more important things. Like composition. Or concept. Or what to make for dinner.
I'm thinking.... chicken.