Thursday, September 2

Horizon Lines in Seascapes Must Be Correct or Your Painting Is Doomed !

My Doomed Seascape Motif
Copyright 2010
September already? I just flipped the page on my 2010 Monet calendar to September, and I will now enjoy viewing The Artist’s Garden at Vetheuil, 1880, for the next 28 days.

Today I am blogging about horizon lines that appear (or don’t ) in your seascapes.

As you’re well aware, the horizon line is the place in your composition where the sky meets water (or land in a landscape) unless your painting has a different viewpoint and you can't see it. By different viewpoint I mean looking up or down so a horizon isn't visible.

Why am I blogging about this?

Well, I just had a bad experience with a horizon line in my latest watercolor. I thought I would briefly tell you how I messed up so that you may avoid the same fate.

It all started when I selected a seascape motif for my next painting…

My personal photo taken on the coast in Malibu, California, shows rocks, a pier, and the water, of course. Since my interest was the pier as it jutted out into the ocean, I had to seriously crop the foreground. (I use Photoshop Elements, but any photo-editing software will work.) That left me with a zoomed-in view of just the pier and the water. The result was a very horizontal layout of the motif. See today’s image.

As you can see, the pier blocks the view of the horizon on the right side.

Now, maybe it was the elevation at which I was standing (onshore and slightly elevated) or maybe it was because the zooming-in distorted the depth perception. I think, however, it was probably my preliminary sketch on the canvas that was wrong, and by that I mean I didn’t put the pier in a level position.

But, whatever it was, it doomed my painting.

“Look here, your pier is angled so that the viewer should be able to see the horizon above it,” I was told when I showed my work to another artist after almost completing the painting and two long days of work.

“Oh my!” (That’s not what I actually said.)

It seems that after I drew my preliminary sketch, I should have MEASURED the distance from the top corner on BOTH sides down to the horizon line or, in the case of my painting, where the horizon line should have been.

In seascapes, it’s imperative that this distance BE EQUAL! Duh--water is level!

Because the top edge of the pier on the right side of my painting was not equal to the water horizon line on the left side, my painting was doomed from the beginning.

I tried to correct this by adding a water horizon line just ABOVE the pier, but that threw the whole perspective of the pier off—the railing, the building angles—and, as I said, my painting was doomed.

Let this be a lesson.

Until next blog.

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