Teaching the concept of creating space in an artwork through the use of foreground, middleground, and background while working on a flat piece of paper can be tricky to say the least. Use this free fold up printable to help your students envision exactly how these elements of landscape stack up!
Foreground, middleground, and background are concepts that apply to many 2-D projects. They are evident in both still lifes and landscapes but for our purposes we’re going to stick with landscapes. The foreground, middleground, and background divide the landscape into different planes that the artist uses to create a sense of depth.
What is the foreground of a landscape…
The foreground of a landscape is generally closer to the bottom of the composition, although that isn’t always the case. Because this part of the scene is closest to the viewer the objects appear to be larger.
Introducing the background….
The background of a scene is the furthest away. It gives some context to the scene, where it might be taking place. Because items in the background are meant to appear farther away they are much smaller in size, duller in color, and contain less detail than objects that are close to the viewer.
Finding the middleground…
The middleground is the space naturally occurring between the foreground and the background. Easy, right?
Talking about how great artists use space within a landscape…
Introduce the vocabulary and discuss the concept of creating the illusion of space by using a distinct foreground, middleground, and background. The examples above are great conversations starters. Ask questions and let your kiddos have a discussion about what they see without having definite right or wrong answers.
“Where are colors the brightest?”
Where are the most details evident in the paintings?”
“Do you notice anything special about the way sizes of objects relate to each other?”
“In the center painting “Cattleya Orchid” do you think the orchid is really bigger than the hummingbird? Is it bigger than the tree?”
Introduce and discuss, but don’t worry if it seems the information isn’t sinking in. This is a complex concept. If your kiddo isn’t ready to completely understand it the next time they hear it they will at least have a context for the ideas.
Learn basic techniques to create space within a work of art…
If your kids aren’t yet familiar with ways that artists create the illusion of space in an artwork be sure to check out this post. It contains a one page printable that outline six techniques artists use to create space within their work. The techniques are briefly outlines as follows. Refer to the space printable above for more information and examples of each technique!
Overlap- Shapes in the distance will be overlapped by shapes that are closer.
Shading- Adding shading and shadows to two dimensional shapes can make them appear three dimensional.
Placement- Objects that are farther away are placed closer to the horizon line.
Size- Objects that are far away appear smaller. Objects that are closer to the viewer appear larger.
Value and Focus- Objects that are far away appear lighter in color and less clear than objects that are close.
Perspective- Depth can be created through the use of one vanishing point. (AKA- one point perspective)
These concepts go hand in hand with the concept of foreground, middleground, and background. IT can be helpful to introduce them around the same time, or at least review them. It’s impossible to create a foreground, middleground, and background without understanding some basic techniques that artists use to create space on a two dimensional paper.
Now the doing…..
Talking about a concept is good. But putting it into action is even better! Before you’re ready to invest a lot of time on an in depth artwork let’s start simple. This foreground middleground background printable has a super simple skyline. Fold the paper into thirds using the vertical lines. The paper will fold like an accordion so it’s important not to start drawing till you’ve folded. In some places you’ll actually be drawing on what is the back of the paper when it’s flat,
Though kids are starting with the same silhouette they will no doubt come up with unique solutions to fill their space. Supply pencils, markers, colored pencils, whatever floats your boat! Another quick and easy option is this painting with marker technique.
Want the free foreground middleground background printable to try with your students?
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