Friday, May 31, 2013

Paint a Bridge and Get Over It

My sister graduates in a few days, and we're having a party because surviving high school is a really big deal.  I'm painting these king-sized sheet backdrops to go along with the Japanese-garden-generally-Asian-probably-not-politically-correct-but-whatever theme of this shindig.  Two of them are fairly simple.  One is a silhouetted pagoda against a pink and orange sky, another is a tree and a sunset.  The third, however, wound up being far more detailed than the other two.  This is what it looks like:

I can't in good faith say that I'm not extremely proud of the way it turned out.  It took a ton of work, I think it looks great and I'm downright impressed with myself.  However, I can in good faith say that it has a ton of problems.  And those problems bother me every time I look at it.  So I'm going to share them with you guys, here, because I think it's good to be critical of yourself, and also because nobody else wants to hear it.

The problems I have with it are mostly perspective issues to do with the bridge.  This comes from the fact that I basically freehanded the bridge rather than basing it off of a specific photograph.  I looked at lots of photos to figure out roughly how a japanese bridge should look, but I never pulled out my ruler or anything like that to make sure it was geometrically logical.  And if anyone asks (no one will ask), I'm citing MC Escher as my inspiration.  The truth is the bridge is a mess.  Here's everything that's wrong with it:

Perspective is based on where the viewer is standing.  I'm not exactly sure where I put the viewer of my bridge, but I know that you could be, visually, in any of four places based on where the bridge seems to shift. 

  1. Where the top rails appear to cross.
  2. Where the far post is hidden completely by the near post.
  3. Where the bottom rails appear to cross.
  4. Where the underside of the bridge becomes visible.
In real life, all those things should happen along the same vertical line.  In Raz's Magical Paint Land, the rules of geometry are more like guidelines.  This brings me nicely to my next point:  If all of the far posts are to the left of their respective near posts, there should never be a point where the far post is hidden completely by the near one.  That just means my bridge is missing a far post:

See?  Right in the middle.
Also, if the far posts are to the left of the near posts, it means that the left edge of the posts should be visible (and therefore shaded), not the right edge, which I have shaded dark.  If you could see them, though, they would be dark, based on where I sort of arbitrarily decided my light source was.  So I got that right.  Yay.

Now, let's look at the slats that run horizontally along the bottom of the bridge:

The posts are supposedly right across from each other, this means they should line up with the same horizontal slat, like they do at (1) in the above image.  But by (2) the posts are quite obviously misaligned, and it gets worse as you proceed along the bridge.  This is because I drew the posts where I thought they sort of looked about right, then added the slats so that they, too looked about right, and noticed later that they did not look about right together.

Finally, I have issues with the horizon.  Because if there was any geometric planning I did it was to make sure my lines receded toward the horizon.  But when I did that, the horizon was about where the bushes meet the water (yellow line).

But making the water go all the way to the horizon made it look like the little stream opened up into some ocean (probably the Pacific, if we're in Japan), not a cute, intimate little pond in a garden.  So I put bushes there, instead.  Now, it looks like a pond.  When I did that, however, I inadvertently moved the horizon up quite a bit, so that now it's more where the white line is.  So it no longer makes sense for the far post to appear shorter than the near post, because it should appear closer to the horizon.  Now, my bridge is just crooked.

I like the moss on the water.  I like the reflection of the rocks.  I like the way the leaves in the background look where the light comes through from behind.  I even like the bushes, despite the fact that they ruined my horizon.  But the bridge and I are still not on speaking terms.  But hashing all of this out felt really good.