Updated: Jan 23
“When what is, isn’t … and vice versa.”
Have you ever been pulled into a photo of the layers of mountains (like in the Smokies) that takes you miles beyond the foreground? Yet, the image is on a thin piece of photo paper, canvas or even the display of a cell phone?
The typical camera captures images similar to the way our eyes take in a view. So, when we later view the image, the scene can make us feel as though we are where the camera was at the time. At least visually.
The “Perspective Elements” garnered from the image of the Smokies can be applied to an MG. So what are these “Perspective Elements” (PEs)?
If you examine the above image, you will notice the geometry of the mountains is different between the near mountains and the far mountains. The mountains appear smaller, are closer together and begin to lose detail the farther away they are. By using this observation when planning an MG you can create an MG with a “Deeper Perspective.”
Now, don’t start thinking you will need to locate mathematically accurate representations of all objects of a scene. Not only would this likely change one’s character to lemming-like and guide you involuntarily over a cliff, it is just not necessary. Do not completely remove the fun factor of MG creation by trying to do the near impossible. Are you familiar with the saying, “We have been doing so much for so long with so little that we can now do anything with nothing in no time”? Well, let’s not practice that here. Here we are going to rely on the mind of the viewer to fill in all the blanks. Let us remember that even Picasso became famous for his creations!
So, here are some of the PEs that I feel are good to be aware of and that may be applied to MGs to gain a “Deeper Perspective.” It is important to note that what we are trying to achieve is the creation of depth that defies the size of the container used (…what is, isn’t…).
Change in Scale
Placing smaller scaled items in the back of your scene. Normally we try hard to match the scale of objects throughout an MG. If you are trying to achieve more depth, then you can use out-of-scale objects to your advantage. Smaller scaled objects will go in the back of your scene and larger scaled objects will be placed in the foreground. Now, this does not mean we throw out the rule of matching scale between objects. The rule of scale is applied differently. One should strive to match the scale of objects placed near each other. These items will be in the same or similar position relative to the foreground and background of your scene so their scales needs to match. Now, it can be challenging to find an object you desire in all the different scales you may want. Don’t fret. Finding objects that vary in height or width alone can work.
Change in Texture
This PE can be challenging to apply in practicality. Plant material and crafted items offer the most opportunities here. Coarser textures in the foreground and finer textures in the background.
Change in Width of Linear or Curvilinear Features
A pathway, stream or strip of “turf” that becomes narrower as it makes its way to the back of the scene is a powerful method to creating depth. This not only applies to linear paths, but to meandering (curvilinear) ones as well.
Change in Object Spacing
Similar and repetitive objects can be spaced closer together as their positions approach the back of the scene. Placement of objects such as fence posts, stepping stones and hedging plants can take advantage of this PE. This is also a strong method of creating depth.
When most or all of these PEs are combined the effect can be quite impressive. Trying to apply all of these PEs to each element can be very challenging. The more of them you are able to apply, the more convincing your scene will be. But remember, the idea is to have fun. Finding you at the bottom of a cliff is not the goal.
MGs rely heavily on the imagination of the creator and the viewers. This holds true with the attempt of creating depth. Here are some tips that will help you get deeper (was too good to resist) into leveraging PEs in your creations.
A Single Point Perspective
A grasp of this concept is helpful when you are planning your MG scene with depth. Especially when laying out your linear or curvilinear elements. Here is a visual example of a single point perspective. Notice how the foreground items that carry through to the background all merge at a single point on the distant horizon.
Use Two or More Similar Focal Objects of Different Scales
If you have similar objects such as: vehicles, structures, animals, hand tools, etc. of different and appropriate scales you can use them to your advantage. Placing the smaller items behind or “beyond” the larger version of the object will create depth.
Using Similar Objects With Different Textures
Some of the objects that come to mind are loose materials. Like small stones for pathways and “creek-beds.” The stones may be sorted by relative size and the larger ones used in the foreground and the smaller in the background. This applies to stepping stones as well. Since there are lots of different textured green plants (real and faux plants), there are opportunities to use plants with coarse texture in the foreground and finer texture in the background. Small stones used as “boulders” are available in a nearly endless selection, using larger and coarser textures in the foreground and finer textures and smaller sizes in the background.
When What is, Isn’t …
Here are two simple layouts for a basic MG that demonstrates the impact of applying some of these PEs.
No intentional use of PEs
Straight pathway, similar size sprigs used throughout, all focal objects of similar scale.
The same container with PEs applied … “it is the same container, isn’t it?”
Tapered pathway, progressively smaller and finer textured sprigs, progressively smaller scale for focal objects.
Well, we have progressed all the way to the end of this article on using perspective techniques in an MG. If you have learned one thing I hope it is this: stay away from the edge of the cliff.