We can usually divide up a landscape into at least three regions: foreground, middle ground and background (FG, MG and BG). These are the artist's depth planes and it is through their organisation that the impression of depth is introduced to the painting. This organisation is twofold:
- Contrast between regions (intercontrast)
- For example: FG is darker than MG which is darker than BG
- Contrast within regions (intracontrast)
- For example: FG has a higher tone intracontrast than the other regions. BG has a higher hue intracontrast than the other regions.
A painting is organised is approximately the same way as a photograph. The main difference is that the contrasts within a painting are more exaggerated. See the lovely painting below by the Hudson River painter, Thomas Cole and compare it to the photograph of similar subject matter. See how more extreme the contrast are in the painting: the high contrasts are higher, the low contrasts are lower.
A landscape is also likely to contain a fourth region (the sky) that should be separately considered because of its huge impact on the aesthetic aspects of the scene.
Please look at Overlap for a key skill needed in depth space construction.
Also check out my slides on landscape painting: Landscapes_s.pdf (right click download)