Mary L. Hackett
600 Country Club Lane
Carterville, IL 62918-1629 USA
618-985-6308

UNDERSTANDING LANDSCAPE BASICS

These are the concepts that will help you produce an illusion of reality in your landscape quilt designs. Please refer to A Bridge to Landscape Quilts for further development of these points.

We humans have a basic survival skill involving distance perception. Our brain receives visual information and instantly interprets an environment. This nifty built-in response allows us to produce artwork that can stimulate the mind to "see" something that is not actually there! By setting up an illusion of objects existing in an environment of light and distance, we are able to elicit cooperation in the viewer to help the landscape seem real.

It is not necessary to be photo-realistic in drawing, painting, or sewing a landscape in order for the illusion to be effective. What is necessary is to avoid upsetting the brain's tendency to accept what is seen. First we establish a simple framework, and then we add visual cues which agree rather than conflict with one another. What are the visual cues that identify an environment for us?

SKY, LAND, WATER - A horizontal line is the most basic landscape cue, the point of focus for primitive man. Whatever your landscape subject matter, a horizon line accurately perpendicular to the floor is a must! Still water must lie flat, and even hills imply a horizon line. Pretend it's there even when it isn't visible.

SCALE - What size is an object, related to the other things in a picture? Generally, bigger means closer. Related concepts are perspective, which is the effect of objects diminishing in size as the distance increases; and overlapping images, which tell us that an object behind another object, must be further away.

SOURCE OF LIGHT - Be sure that all objects within your landscape exhibit signs of receiving light from a consistent direction. Strong, consistent shadows are a powerful suggestion of depth, which competing shadows are a sure way to confuse the viewer!

DETAIL - The human eye cannot possibly see blades of grass on a distant hillside. It is a waste of time to put them there, because it sends the wrong visual cue! Save details for the flower or butterfly in the foreground.

COLOR - Sets a mood and can contribute to the perception of distance. Notice that distant terrain tends to appear bluer or grayer than foreground terrain, fading into the sky. One exception is distant shapes silhouetted against a lighter sky. This is an example of

CONTRAST - May be the single most important concept to the success of your composition. Without contrast, all elements become muddy. Start your composition by providing high contrast.

BE WILLING TO TINKER AND PLAY! Leave the room for awhile, and when you re-enter, ask yourself:

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?


The answers will help you adjust your work and improve your results.

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