Depth Of Field

The human eye, like the camera, has a limited depth of field. In other words we focus on one level and the objects in front or behind are often blurred. When Deigo Velazquez painted Las Meninas he, along with many artists (pre-photography), painted everything in focus. This was part of the magic of painting as the viewers perception was thereby expanded - rather like a hologram. Today wide angle lens may produce something similar but unless you intend to spend hours in a darkroom it is an all or nothing solution.

There are good lessons to be learned here and this painting by Deigo Velazquez will serve us well as it has a defined foreground, middle ground and background. Let's experiment then ...

First I will separate the fore, middle and back grounds then utilise three focal depths and observe the results. The essential question I ask is one of choice - what do you like most?

The foreground in focus.

The middle ground in focus.- note the exciting change of emphasis.

Ahh... you say - and why not! But don't you find the blurring unsettling? The artist would have.

This particular painting is huge and designed as a feast or as a complete visual experience. I am merely toying with the work and I hereby apologise to the master for doing so. Today we may find no magic in multi-focused paintings but the lessons in design and emphasis are worth considering. The example in the abstract lesson is essentially a similar manipulation. Note: the artist painted so well that the dwarfed figure in the foreground has recently been diagnosed as a victim of congenital syphilis.

STUDENT ACTIVITY: There is a painting to be made by focusing on the girl directly behind the dog as her head and body in this composition is located on a diagonal and in a premier design position. Find a copy of this painting and try it (see lesson on design and proportion for hints).

...or back to main lesson list

...or back to main lesson list

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