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[ Home: : Painting with John Hagan: Depth of Field in Painting ]


The human eye, like the camera, has a limited depth of field. In other words we focus on one level and the objects in front or behind are blurred. When Deigo Velazquez painted Las Meninas he along with many artists (pre-photography) painted everything in focus. This was part of the magic of painting as the viewers perception was expanded. Today wide angle lens will produce something similar but unless you intend to spend hours in a darkroom it is an all or nothing solution.

There are good lessons to be learned here and this painting will serve us well as it has defined foreground, middle ground and background elements.

First I will separate them then utilise three focal depths and observe the results.
The essential question I ask is one of choice - what do you like?

The foreground in focus.

The background in focus (the artist's preferred model?)

The middle ground in focus.- note the exciting change of emphasis.

Ahh... you say - and why not! But do you find the blurring unsettling?

This particular painting is huge and designed as a feast for visual experience. I am merely toying with the work and I apologise to the master for doing so. Today we may find no magic in multi-focused paintings but the lessons in design and emphasis are worth considering. The example in the abstract lesson is essentially a similar manipulation.

There is a painting to be made by focusing on the girl directly behind the dog as her head and body in this composition is located on a diagonal and in a premier design position. Try it - and see lesson on design and proportion.

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