My environments always seem flat. How can I give them more depth?
Miriam Halstram, Canada
There are a few key techniques that’ll help you to create believable environments, such as atmospheric perspective, repeated shapes and using light to help create 3D forms.
Atmospheric perspective is a technique used to mimic the way distant objects are affected by the Earth’s atmosphere. Find some landscape photographs and notice how mountains in the distance become blue/grey and less defined. Recreating this haze will help your mid- and foreground to feel distinct.
Use of repeated shapes is one of the easiest ways to demonstrate the scale and distance of an image. Human figures are particularly helpful here, because the viewer will understand how large objects are in relation to a human being. Try adding figures throughout your painting and scale them appropriately. You can use a perspective grid to make this easier.
An understanding of light and shadow is going to help you out when it comes to rendering forms. I use photo reference for my environments, paying specific attention to how light lands on rocks or mountains. You can never study too much.
There are lots of other great techniques to learn such as layering objects, adding mist to separate forms and understanding where to add texture and where to hold back, but the three I’ve described here will serve as a solid base to start learning!
Distant islands become bluer and less defined, while repeated waterfalls imply distance. I study rocks to help with the island rendering.
In this value study, elements close to the camera have higher contrast and are darker than the background.