Saturday, March 2, 2019

Beginning Watercolor Homework 2/28/19 Figure /Ground

When we talk about the figure/ground relationship in visual art we are usually referring to how the forward objects interact with the background. This is not limited to literal figures. We could just as easily be considering how a vase of tulips stands out or merges with the space behind it.

Image result for raphael portrait of castiglione

Portrait of Baldassari Castiglione  by Raphael
I love this portrait. There isn't much space in the painting. I think Raphael wanted us to feel as if we were sitting quite close to Signore Castiglione, maybe at the same table. The soft shadow the figure casts shows us  there is a wall right behind him.  The artist keeps the figure separate from the background almost entirely by controlling the relative value of the wall and that remarkable tunic and hat. Having made sure that enough of the dark-clad figure contrasts with the lighter wall,  Raphael allows the sitter's elbow to merge with the wall.

Image result for wyeth watercolor

Andrew Wyeth uses similar means to separate the figure from the ground. On the dark side of the figure the background is light, whereas the light side of the figure is contrasted with a darker ground. Wyeth also uses the content to create another kind of contrast,  juxtaposing the rectilinear white cabinets with the scruffy figure.

In this photo the tree is separate from the mountain thanks to color, value and edge quality. If you were painting the scene, do you think you could afford to let some of the edge of the figure merge with the ground? Would you use hard edges or soft for the detail on the mountain?
Give it a try one way or the other, or perhaps both.

It's not necessary to duplicate the photo. Make any changes you please.

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