Why Your Art Needs a Background

Do you rationalize to yourself why your artwork doesn’t need a background? Time to stop making excuses and see the immense potential that backgrounds can have on your artwork, regardless of the media you work in.

Backgrounds are not just visually rich and dynamic, but they contribute tremendously toward communicating a narrative, atmosphere or tone to your artwork, they are a powerful tool you don’t want to skip on!

Discussion with Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artists Cat Huang and Deepti Menon.

Lauryn Welch
Lauryn Welch

Video Walkthrough

  • Backgrounds can be powerful narrative tools in all art.
  • Backgrounds enhance and inform the main subjects and characters.
  • The world around the subjects is just as important in an artwork.
  • Backgrounds don’t have to be complicated to be effective.
  • Don’t tell yourself that if you add a background, it will inherently be too distracting.
  • For many artists the default is to not have any background.
  • Backgrounds have so much potential, don’t let it go to waste!
  • Imagine if you removed the backgrounds from a movie, how much you would lose!
  • Examples where pure white backgrounds made sense in the context of the story: The Matrix and Yellow Submarine.
  • Subjects feel much more grounded when there is a background.
  • You can create vast depth in an artwork with a background.
  • Backgrounds can be very effective in terms of showing space and light.

Deepti’s Tips

Thumbnails are to plan out a final image — so yes plan out the composition, lighting, perspective, all of it!

Thumbnails should be quick, and be all about EXPLORATION! Try out different ideas in the thumbnail stage until you’re happy to move on with one of them.

Deepti Menon

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