A frequent issue in many paintings is that most of the artist’s attention is on the focal area, but the
foreground remains unresolved and the painting suffers for it. Just as often, the foreground can attract
too much unwarranted attention by containing unnecessary detail.
Why are foregrounds so difficult? This mini-lesson offers a few simple suggestions to address this
dilemma to make your paintings stronger and more dynamic.
The foreground is the beginning or entrance to your painting. It should invite your viewer in, but not be
the whole story. It shouldn’t dominate. You want your viewer to seek out the rest of the story, to be led to
the main part of the show!
Photographs tend to capture all the detail in a scene with no discrimination; everything in it has the same
power and nothing has emphasis. This does not make for a great painting. To remedy this we have to
use our photo reference as a tool rather than the defining factor of our paintings. We have to edit and
crop and adjust.
Here are a few points to consider when addressing the foreground in your paintings. I hope you find
● Use spatial markers like paths, fences and similar devices to move the eye from the foreground.
These help convey the effect of distance.
● Employ the effect of distance by including a narrowing width of a road, path or stream.
● Diminish the size of poles, trees or other elements as they recede.
● Use overlapping shapes like bushes, trees and natural features.
● Adjusting color temperature as elements recede in the distance. The road surface color
temperature, for example, will be cooler in the middle-ground. Conversely foregrounds in sunlight
will be warmer in color temperature. This makes the foreground rise towards you.
● Use bigger strokes in the foreground to add texture and spatial cues. Diminish the scale of your
marks as they recede.
● Use the foreground as an entrance. A large shadow falling across the foreground invites you to
step over the shadow into the light.
● Frame the foreground with cool and dark overhanging tree branches and bushes. This window
effect invites you to look through into the sunlit middle-ground.
● Use texture rather than flat, smooth surfaces. If you have large areas of one color you can add
variations of that color that are slightly different hues but in the same family and different
intensities. This creates a pattern or rhythm that is not monotonous and lends luminosity.
I hope you found these tips helpful.
With Warmest Regards,