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Determining Bodies of Water
Many landscape artists exploit water in their paintings. Flat bodies of water will fall under these categories:
Rivers and streams make excellent visual paths to draw the viewers in and lead them where you want. Because we artists crop out information for our paintings, how do we send a message to our viewers as to the size of the body of water? Here is a simple rule of thumb:
It is a common practice for artists to allow the bank of a river to exit and reenter at one of the sides of a landscape painting. That works as long as the reentry point is an inch or so from that exit. The eye will make the connection at the short distance. In fact this technique helps keeps the river from seeming like it has been fitted into a rectangle, like socks in a drawer; it anchors the shape nicely.
When both sides of a body of water originate from the bottom, it will give the impression it is a narrow body of water such as a stream.
When one side of the body of water originates from the side and the other from the bottom, it will give the impression it is wider body of water such as a river. Make sure the two measurements from the corners are not the same.
When both sides of body of water come out from the opposites sides, it will convey the impression it is a lake or an ocean.
Above: example of a wide river. One side comes in from the side, the other from the bottom.
Above: example of a narrow body of water. Both sides originate from the bottom.
Above: example of a very wide body of water. Both sides originate from the vertical side of the painting. This composition suggests it is a lake.
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