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The Space Between: Background Vs. Foreground

February 21, 2017

When I was in high school, I spent a great deal of time in the drama rooms. I loved plays and musical theatre - though I am more likely to enjoy being part of the theatre when I'm in the ensemble rather than being solo at center stage. When you're acting in theatre, you're told to stand in certain spots on the stage (e.g. downstage, upstage, center stage). There is a reason for this. It directs the flow of the cast, helps move the story along, and allows for the person speaking to be cast prominently so the audience knows where to look. 


This is also important when working in art. When you are creating something, you have your background, middle ground, and foreground. The background would be the first thing you paint, the part of the painting that is furthest from the eye. In the painting here, the background would be the blue and white of the sky. 

The foreground is the object/part of the painting that is the closest to the eye (e.g. the flowers at the bottom of the painting). This doesn't mean that whatever is closest to the eye is the most important part of the painting. It simply means that you are providing depth to the painting. 

The space between the background and foreground is where most of your painting will take place. This is the middle ground. This is typically where the focal point (the main part) of the painting will be. The subject (here is a barn and pond) will sit pride of place within the middle ground. Your eye may first travel here because it will be the centre of your painting, but if it doesn't, that's okay. Everyone takes in art in their own way.
There are many levels to the middle ground of a painting. Where the background and foreground are usually one "level" the middle ground can have several. Using the painting above as an example, we see the following levels: 

1) Sky (background)     2) Mountains (mid)   3) Back Tree (mid)  4) Brush (mid)    5) Barn (mid) 6) Front Tree (mid)  7) Trail (mid)... etc. 

When using acrylic paints, it's important that your paint is dry before moving on to the next step in the painting process. 
Always paint from background to foreground to ensure that you are allowing the best use of depth. 

Take your time with it. When you attend my painting pARTies, I am fairly generous with the time allotment. There is a reason for that. I, myself, do NOT like to be rushed when I'm finding my groove and set in the creative process. Take your time and enjoy yourself. 

Art is about having fun, exploring your creative side, and (for some) working through stress/anxiety. 

Next week we will talk about placement and the weight of a painting. 


If you have any suggestions for upcoming blog posts, please don't hesitate to ask! 

Paint on, my friends. 

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