STUFF ABOUT HORIZONS
Years ago, a well-known annual art show had a set of guidelines which outlined why some paintings may not make it to the hanging stage. One of the most ardent points was that if seascapes didn't show the curvature of the earth on the horizon, they would most likely not be chosen for hanging.
I recently saw a sea painting with such a curved horizon and no matter what you believe on the subject, it just didn't look right.
Sea horizons are funny things though. There are days when the horizon line is so razor sharp that you could cut your finger on it. But when it 's painted this way, it never looks quite right! It also has to do with the fact that the horizon is only about five kilometres away from a standing position on the beach. After five kilometres, the horizon dips out of view because of the curve of the earth's surface.
From an elevated view the horizon can look nice and soft because it’s further away. We can also soften one closer horizon too if we want to… and this will take away the harshness of it all.
The most obvious painted sea horizon fault is when it slants. Even in a metre wide canvas, a few millimetres slant will become apparent. When it's noticed, that will become the unfortunate focal point of the entire work! Most times artists notice it before it's finished, but not always.
The antidote is to measure the horizon from the top or bottom of the painting both left and right and draw in a pencil line with a long straight edge. When we come to paint it, leave the ruler behind and go over the pencil line with a free-hand brush. It will have a few wobbles but the overall line will be straight.
If we have a perfectly sharp, straight horizon, you are almost always committed to paint everything else the same way, which is okay if that’s the way we paint.
Horizons both in seascapes and landscapes are also a chance to draw the eye through the painting. Small objects represented by simple marks of the right tone will have us peering into the distance to see what's what. It can provide an additional illusion of distance and space.
Finally, back to that sea horizon. With the horizon only being about five kilometres away there is no chance of seeing the curvature of the earth except the evidence of it going away from us. The sight of a ship disappearing over the horizon is a remarkable thing and evidence we do live on a globe.