“Now the bigger question, how to apply this in my own modeling.”
That’s the question Craig posed last week at the end of his comment. Whether he’s being rhetorical or not, it’s the central question many of us ask about the work we want to do. Without specifics, all I can offer here is general advice. Truth be told, I’m making a lot of this up as I go by trying a technique, looking at the results and adjusting as needed. If there’s any kind of formula at all, that’s it. Let’s get to Craig’s question though.
What Do You Want?
For using color in a scene, I need to know what result I want to achieve. Graying down the color near the backdrop, I wanted the impression of more depth and distance. As discussed last week, at each end of the scene, I want to draw your attention away from the area. Even though I might apply the same technique, the intent is different for each situation.
Viewpoints I don’t normally show in photos. Above you can see the ground cover gets grayer and less intense as it approaches the backdrop. As mentioned in the text, my intent here is to provide a sense of depth and ease the transition from 3D scenery to the flat plane of the sky.
In the second photo, I used the same dark color washes on the scenery and roadbed along with more opaque color on the rails. I don’t want the eye to linger near the edge of the cameo but to move left back into the scene.
To understand how color impacts both places, I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors just looking at the landscape. You could do the same thing with photos but understand the camera’s sensor or film will alter the colors, if the settings are off.
What Am I Supposed To See?
If this is completely new to you, you’re going to wonder what in hell am I supposed to see? The simple answer is, you want to see what’s actually there, instead of what you think is there. Huh?
We form preconceived ideas about things and events. These preconceptions may be accurate but most likely aren’t. For a simplistic example, up close, a brick looks red. At increasing distances, that brick gradually shifts color toward blue or gray because of way the moisture in the atmosphere refracts the light. We’ve already told ourselves that bricks are red, so when asked what color the brick warehouse in the distance is, we’ll say it’s red, instead of the blue or gray that our eyes see.
Beginning art students have to learn how to “see” an object as it actually is and one traditional method is to change the context of the object. As Dave suggested a few weeks ago, take a photo and look at it upside down or in reverse via a mirror. To see color accurately, take a piece of gray or black construction paper or cardboard and make a small hole in the middle of it. Hold it at arm’s length and look through the hole. You should be able to see the distant color more accurately because you’ve changed the context for your brain.
It takes time so don’t get discouraged if things don’t look different immediately. The mind is a powerful thing but you can make a habit of observation. When I’m outdoors, running errands or going anywhere, I’m always studying the landscape.
Color looks more intense on a sunny day than it does under overcast clouds. Consider the type of light you’re trying to mimic and be consistent with it in choosing how to manipulate the colors of your scenery. On my cameo there are no bright colors at all. Something as mundane as a bright red or yellow road sign would draw the eye right to it. I want to emphasize again how this principle applies to everything. I picked up a Lehigh Valley boxcar kit recently. Straight from the box, the bright white color scheme would act as a beacon on the layout. I could repaint and letter it for a different road but I’ll weather this car to carefully match the atmospheric light so it can blend into the setting I’ve created. Because it’s so distinctive however, it likely won’t show up at the elevator too often.
I’ll close by saying that nothing on the cameo is final at this point. Since starting this series of posts I’ve gone back and redone areas that I’m not satisfied with. As the scenery develops, I’m always evaluating the overall impact and make adjustments as needed. Like a painting, it’s finished when there’s nothing left to add or take away.
Like the other skills of our craft, the ones I’ve discussed in recent weeks can be learned. Achieving subtlety and nuance comes with practice and time. Treating scenery like this brings a new sense of satisfaction to my modeling. The cost is minimal but the impact isn’t.