Capturing Depth in a One Dimensional Frame
In real life, the brain deciphers reality and the depth of a scene by visual cues but much of the dimension is filled in by certain assumptions that the brain makes by experience and reason. The assumption of reality often hampers the effects that the artist tries to create, what we assume of reality is often more complicated or visually incorrect, in creating droplets of water the initial conception would attempt a complex process of capturing the depth and clarity of water when in actuality the process is very simple and basic, the less detail you can achieve especially trying to create water the more believable the end image.
In seeing images across the visual plane we use our experience and concept of depth and color to make decisions on depth and the distance we are seeing. You know that the ocean is a great distance of space, the visual cues you record only support and confirm the distance. I recently went to a cave in California, Moaning rocks cavern-the distance to the ceiling of the cavern is roughly the height of the statue of liberty but because of the lack of visual cues for the brain to decipher the distance the distance seems much less than the actual depth of the cave. The illusion of distance and space is something that the artist and the photographer must capture and relate on a one dimensional field.
Many times you see a scene and photograph the image hoping to capture that same feeling of depth and beauty and unfortunately many times we are left with a flat uninteresting image in the end. There are two processes at work here, first the camera attempts to capture everything in a gray basic tone and will make a multitude of values a close semblance of constant gray, photographers must meter their light to exaggerate lighter or darker areas of a scene to make the camera decipher a scene in a more significant range of tones therefore allowing the depth and space of an image. Another factor that is involved is the availability of visual cues that allow the viewer to decipher the distance between the back of a one dimensional plane to the front. These visual cues capture the illusion of a distance that is deciphered on a flat plane.
Painting is the same kind of visual illusion, you must adjust, exaggerate and highlight changes in light, tone, sharpness and value-this is how you allow the eye to go deep into a one dimensional scene capturing the illusion of space on a flat plane. Surrealists often bend this illusion and often the feeling of a reality that is awkward or somewhat disturbing may be achieved, cubists capture various planes of an image and flatten the each plane on the same plane-all of these techniques is how the artist manipulates how the viewer sees the space the artist creates. Art is an illusion and the more options the artist has to manipulate it, the more options and cues that are available to interest the viewer. This is the first lesson that I taught my recent student and how we approached each area of the paintings had to do with this premiss.