Looking back through history we see early humans and those creating art during early civilizations telling stories through their visuals. From cave paintings to the hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt visual stories are being told. Some of the stories we know through historical writings and other, created during prehistoric times we can only conjecture what meanings they have. For the most part, these images are placed on two-dimensional surfaces and serve their primary purpose of communicating thoughts, mythologies and history. Considerations of creating the illusion of depth does not appear to be evident. This applies to the majority of Western two-dimensional art created during the Hellenistic, through the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, and in the Byzantine, Carolingian, Romanesque, and early Gothic periods. In the late Gothic we begin to see the emergence of convincing illusions of depth in drawings and paintings. The application of oil paints as a new painting medium in the late Gothic period in the Netherlands plays a significant role in creating the illusion of depth. This, combined with newfound knowledge of mathematical linear perspective by the genius Florentine sculptor and architect Filippo Brunelleschi, pushes representational painting forward during the Italian Renaissance. Renaissance artists became obsessed with creating paintings with depth, balance, and beauty. The artists began experimenting with the application of one-point and two-point perspective in their paintings. Notable one-point perspective paintings are The Last Supper, by Leonardo Da Vinci and The School of Athens by Raphael.
The use of proper linear or vanishing point perspective in a work of two-dimensional art will certainly add to the illusion of depth, but what other techniques are available to an artist in the quest for creating depth in two-dimensional art? One technique is to use tonal or color gradients with the most contrast applied to the forms closest to the viewer. This can be achieved through the use of enhanced light and shadow, more vivid colors, and more detail in forms that are closest to the viewer.
is another technique used to create the illusion of depth. Clearly we can identify one form as closer if it overlaps another form. Combining this with lighting to create highlights and shadows will also help create the illusion of depth.
Size and scale
are another way to create the feeling of depth in a two-dimensional work of art. Knowledge of proportional systems is helpful here. When drawing or painting from life, Unit of Measure and Sighting techniques will help an artist with proper proportion and scaling of objects.
Rule of Verticality
is another technique whereby the objects closest to the viewer are placed towards the bottom of the visual field and those in the distance towards the middle or top. Although this rule can be broken effectively and does not apply to all circumstances, it is a general rule that my hope an artist create the illusion of depth.
Create both a representational and an abstract design
The representational design follows established art genre such as still-life, landscape and interior drawings or paintings
Use thumbnail sketches to develop your ideas
Choose one of the three visual field formats discussed in Visual Field Format Design
(1. Rectangular Field, 2. Circular or Oval Field, 3. Irregular)
Consider the meaning and use of Figure & Ground, Depth Cues: Gradients, Overlaps, Size Change and Vertical Location and incorporate some or all of these in your designs
Incorporate glued paper, newspaper/magazine cuttings, photos, wallpaper, texture, wood-graining, fabric, painting elements, wire, colored glass, plastics, man-made materials and/or organic materials
As you plan your design also take into consideration design concepts such as the Center, Edge, Top & Bottom, Left & Right,
Emphasize design, not subject
Present your final piece