The Third Dimension
The discussion so far has dealt with just two dimensions. Of course every painting is a two-dimensional
composition. However, the development of perspective, which helps create the illusion of a third dimension, has
also had a significant impact on composition. In general, we are more aware of pattern and design when looking at
a purely two-dimensional composition (think wallpaper or fabrics). Introduce the third dimension, and the painting
becomes a ‘window’ looking out on the world. The more convincing this illusion, the less we are aware of the
painting’s surface, and accordingly the less notice we tend to take of pattern and design elements as they appear
on that surface. It follows therefore that if you want to emphasize these elements, it sometimes pays to employ
devices to minimize the apparent depth of field in your work.
In a still life, you can arrange the subject matter and
select a viewpoint that minimizes the visual depth of field.
As you can see in this piece by William Bailey, the shallow
depth of field serves to emphasize the design elements of