Creating Depth

How do you draw a road that goes for a miles, or  mountains in the distance, the fullness of a shade tree or even the deep set eyes of a model?  To do all of these things we draw depth –  the illusion of three dimensions on a two dimensional piece of paper.  Depth not only draws you into the scene, it establishes a sense of reality and anchors your subject. There are several simple ways of creating depth. Today I’ll share two common techniques.

The first is Overlapping Shapes. How we position objects has a great deal to do with how we view them.   The artist has the wonderful ability to move things around to enhance the ideas he or she is communicating.  Not only can I physically move the objects of a still life, looking at a landscape I can move rocks, trees, even mountains, just by re-positioning them on  the paper.  Pretty cool!  So why would we want to do this?  Take a look – if I draw several items in a row, there’s very little sense of space.

overlap apples

But, if I arrange the apples in a pile with one overlapping the other, we  immediately know that they go back into the distance.  There’s a feeling of depth.


Another way to indicate depth is Diminishing Size.   Everyone knows that things get smaller as they get farther away.  Did you know this is based on the optical principle that light reflects differently off objects proportionally to their position?  There’s even an equation for calculating all of this. Fortunately for you, this is an art blog, and all you really need to remember  is to draw what you see.

Here’s an example.  Looking out my window, there are two trees close to the house.  All I can see is their trunks.  Beyond them I can see an entire tree across the street. In the distance is a forest where the trees appear even smaller.  All of these trees may be the same size, but because of their relationship to me they become smaller and smaller to my eye.  Drawing what I see, it looks like this:


Both of these concepts are pretty basic, yet they’re often forgotten when we draw what we know, not what we see.  Drawing really is seeing.  Tune in next week for more about depth!

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