Artists Using Space Creating Volume in Painting

Escaping Criticism by  Pere Borrell del Caso 
Bank of Spain Headquarters - Oil on Canvass 

We look at a painting from the point we are standing. That is a viewpoint. We find the painting a three-dimensional piece of art painted on a two-dimensional surface. That is the perspective. 

An artist with half a dozen brushes in hand, a score of colour-tubes spread on his or her palate, and having experience of some years if painting would successfully build a viewpoint. After getting some command in the field of painting, the artists would try his or her hand in creating a perspective illusion in paintings.

Here this Spanish artist has done the same. Pere Borrell del Caso (Born in Pugfcerda 1835 – Died in Barcelona - 1910) was a Spanish painter. He was a good illustrator; he was also famous for his engraving. But his name came into the limelight, after he painted this painting, Escaping Criticism, Escapando de la crítica, 1874. 

Creating Sense of Volume:  What does a prized painting contain? A famous painting would certainly consist of an important feature: an accurately embedded perspective. There would be the lines converging at a vanishing point. If there are more than one such points, we can identify them immediately. An artist used everything at his or her disposal while making such a pleasant painting. What is so attractive in this painting? It is the sense of volume. By using all the geometrical means and knowledge at disposal, the artist would be successful in bringing up a sense of volume in the painting. The objects painted would look three dimensional, receding into space; and the painting would look lifelike.

Twenty per cent of every canvas is filled with imagination. That's the golden rule. And the rest is covered by the artist's knowledge about how to cover the space, aesthetically. Remember, the canvas is a flat surface. It has no volume. While painting, the artists create a sense of volume in those flat surfaces. Certainly, there would be a call for creating some illusions. The skill of an artist lies in how ideally he or she can create that illusion of volume on a flat canvas. When an artist stands before a canvas, taking one dozen of brushes and a palate full of colours, he or she has to face the blank space. Here on the clean canvas, an able-minded artist re-creates the image that is roaming in his or her mind.  

Pere Borrell del Caso

How to Use Space of Canvas Artistically:  Think, why we like to look at a painting? The reason is that it pleases our mind and eases our heart. In order to make a painting visually pleasant to the eyes, it should follow the pattern that the human eyes are used to follow, especially while looking at an art-object. The artist has one image in mind. The image is to come out, on an empty canvas. How difficult it sounds!! What will help an artist? He or she would need a self-conscious process, an orderly technique, and above all a pictorial perspective. We can call the process of painting an effort in translating that mental image on to the canvas, through the use of pure geometry, by applying the hues and shades of distinct colours. However, if a painting were to be branded as a genuine artwork, it would require to be creating the feeling of space. That's pivotal. 

Now something about the technique. The important factor that generates a sense of space in a painting is the 'edges of the object' painted. What do the edges mean? The edges are the parts where the body of one object ends and the blank space starts, or the body of another object starts. By covering that space-in-between using essential brushstrokes, an artist creates the volume; he makes us believe that, in the painting, the objects are lying at a distance. Graded shading and the creative synthesis of colours generate a feeling of space. All the artists do it with their labour. Great artists do it effortlessly.

The Art: The above painting is done in the style of creating a perspectival illusion. In this style of painting, an artist tries blurring the boundary between the real space and the fictitious space that we see on a canvas. In this painting, we witness a highly realistic figure: a boy trying to jump out of a window. By applying the technique of the perspective illusion, the Spanish artist Pere Borrell del Casopainter has succeeded in converting this two-dimensional canvas into a three dimensional one.

Self Portrait Charles Willson Peale
Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Artist:   An expert artist with good artistic prowess can create magnificent outcomes. Here is one interesting incident from US President George Washington's life. 

President Washington was once caught in such an artistic illusion. Once, when he had visited the renowned painter Charles Willson Peale's studio. There he saw a painting of a man descending the staircase. The men painted was coming into the room. President Washington, in honour of that person, and believing that person as a real one, had bowed to the man in the painting. Thereafter he came to know that it was a painting and not the real figure. 

This is how a painter like  Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) succeeds in creating the illusion of reality. That is why the millions of people stand in queues at the galleries: to see the masterly painted art-pieces and feel amazed and happy.

How to Look at Painting:  When an artist looks at an object to paint, he or she would see it from multiple dimensions. Many of them would be arbitrary. Take it for granted. The artist might see the object in a standing position, or sitting or sleeping position. He or she may look at the scene to be painted in strange positions while doing yoga postures, too. But all these expressions would generate different types of perspectives. The volume of the object also may vary due to looking at it from a different standpoint. So when we see a painting, we should consider the angle from which the artist had seen the object. That would create the very feeling the artist had desired to be created. 

Importance of the size of the painting: In order to use space effectively, an artist needs to decide about the size of the canvas. Judiciously, with good judgment. The distance from which a viewer looks at a painting is also an important aspect in evaluating the painting, as it helps in enjoying the same. Here is a golden rule. If the viewers' eyes can see the whole painting at a time, it would help in understanding it better. The gallery people know it better. They apply their mind and experience to put a painting at a certain location. After applying all the standards for placing an art piece in a gallery, they vote for a particular space. 

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