How a Background can Ruin a Painting
The following practices are often the causes of unsatisfactory backgrounds in painting.
- Giving sole consideration to the objects within a composition, without thinking about the background shapes, for exmple when composing a still life setting.
- Viewing non-solid objects, such as clouds, reflections and shadows as incidental
- Using a neutral or pale colour for backgrounds. Similarly using one colour to represent a background within a painting, such as green for landscapes or blue for the sky
- Having too much going on in the background, causing loss of focal points within a painting
- Painting the background from memory, resulting in an idealised background which will fail to convince.
- As well as looking at the shapes of the objects within a painting, give equal consideration to the shapes of the spaces between the objects. Look out for an imbalance in distribution. For instance, is there a large area of negative space within one area of the composition? If so, rearrange the objects or shift the viewpoint.
- Look out for any linear echoes which may jar the painting, such as too many vertical lines which may remain unnoticed in the background until the painting is completed.
- Simple elements make effective backgrounds, such as a pebbledash wall or crazy paving. Rustic wood, brick, climbing ivy, particularly under oblique lighting, add a textural element to a painting, which can be achieved by a painting technique known as Sgraffito.
- Use backgrounds to create contrast in hues, as well as texture. A background containing a cool palette adds interest to a foreground consisting of warm colours
- Juxtaposing complimentary colours such as violet and yellow, or blue and green will create a shimmering effect and add focal points to a painting. Introducing neutral colours will tone down a background that might be too garish
What Makes a Good Background in Painting?
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