For additional resources, see the Kohl’s Art Generation Online Lab & Gallery guide.
Learn seven tricks that artists use to give the illusion that things in a work of art are near or far. With each trick, we show you two works of art. We compare a work by a more traditional artist with one by an artist who tries to mix it up. Both create spaces that make us question and pay attention to what we are seeing.
Objects far away appear smaller than objects close up. Experience teaches us this. For example, as a car drives away, it becomes smaller and smaller. We interpret this as the car getting farther and farther away. We are familiar with many objects. If an object appears smaller or larger than we know it to be, we can determine whether the object is near or far. This is called “relative size.” Artists use this device when painting an image. The smaller the object, the farther away it seems.
You can experiment with size by creating a stop-motion animation using this free app. You can use real objects and place them farther and farther away from your iOS device, or draw the same object in three different sizes, cut the drawings out, and then animate them. How else can you make animations that show objects moving closer and farther, becoming larger and smaller? (One suggestion: try making your own flipbook!)
The relative color of objects provides clues as to their distance. Because blue light is not absorbed and scatters in the atmosphere, distant objects, such as mountains, appear bluer. The crispness of an object’s outline also provides clues as to its distance. The scattering of light blurs the outlines of objects, so objects with fuzzy edges are perceived as distant.
Parallel lines that converge to a fixed point create the illusion of depth. A painting that is made using linear perspective might have implied lines, as though the image were “built” over a grid, or lines as obvious as those of a railroad track.
Make your own linear perspective scene: Download this PDF Sketchbook and give it a try!
When objects overlap, our brains interpret this as one object being in front of another in space.
Colors can be identified as either warm or cool. Warm colors—reds, oranges, and yellows—tend to appear closer than cool colors—greens, blues, and violets.
Compare to: Mark Rothko, Green, Red, Blue, 1955
Objects placed near the horizon line appear farther away than those placed below it. Decreasing the size of the object near the horizon line makes the object look even farther away.
Light and Shadow
Highlights and shadows affect how the eye reads an object’s dimensions and depth. Light that comes from a direction other than above tricks our brains into seeing an object differently than its actual physical form; it becomes distorted.