Sunday, 4 September 2011

On The East and West Line

On The East and West Line
Watercolour on Paper
34cm x 24cm (13.5" x 9.5")

Elaine and I have enjoyed a number of cycle tours around the Niagara-on-the Lake wineries. The roads in the region are long, straight and form a grid. The roads that run east to west are called Lines and the roads that run north to south are Concessions. The Lines and Concessions are nearly free of traffic and are perfect for cycling. The East and West Line is slightly busier than most, but (as the painting shows) it has a wide and well-maintained shoulder. To the east of the region, the Niagara Parkway follows the course of the Niagara River. Winston Churchill described it as “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world”. Over the years, it has probably lost some of its charm, but it is still pleasant enough and has an excellent cycle path along its side.

I painted the picture as an exercise in creating a sense of depth. It makes use of linear and aerial perspective.

Linear perspective is the classic technique of drawing parallel lines as though they meet at a vanishing point on the horizon. The sides of the road are a good example of one-point perspective.

Aerial perspective is the effect of light passing through the atmosphere. Objects in the distance appear less detailed, their colours are less saturated and bluer - they fade into the background. I’ve attempted to do this with the trees and the furthest car, but the car is probably slightly overdone.

There are a couple of other techniques that increase the sensation of depth.

The picture includes multiple objects that are about the same size (the cars) at different distances from the viewer. The cars in the distance appear to be smaller than the ones closer to the viewer. This is a direct result of linear perspective, but it increases the impact of the technique.

There are a lot of overlapping objects. If two objects overlap, it is clear that one is in front of the other.

Almost everything that could have gone wrong with this painting went wrong. I nearly gave up on it three or four times. I am continuing to learn that if the initial drawing is good, everything else will fall into place as long as you keep working at it.


  1. Mark,
    Is it the upload or is there a slight tilt to the left on the road ?

  2. Hi Chris,

    I see what you mean. The foreground looks like it is gently sloping to the left.

    The car in the foreground is tilting to the left because of the road camber and spongy suspension. The shadows and heat reflections in front of the car are the problem. They are sloping down to the left across the whole width of the road. They should be horizontal.