My Struggle with the Horizon Line

I consider myself an abstract landscape painter. As I lean more toward the abstract, I find myself struggling to completely give up the horizon line. As I looked at many abstract landscapes, I would say that about 95% have included one.

So I am wondering in landscape paintings, do people have a psychological need to see the horizon line? I spent about two hours trying to find some hint of information about why we like to see that line, but I could find nothing.

In defining this line, a common definition is that it is an imaginary horizontal line, sometimes referred to as eye level, which divides your line of vision when you look straight ahead.

Here is one of my paintings with an obvious horizon line.

painting show where the horizone line is.

Opposition, acrylic on canvas, 24x24x1.5 inches.

Objects below this line are below your eye level, and objects above this line are above your eye level. Artists supposedly draw horizon lines to accurately establish perspective in their work.

Perceived Horizon Line

According to the Creative Glossary, “It is not necessary to include the horizon line in a landscape.  However, it is important to include a ‘virtual’ horizon line in order to make a picture follow correct perspective. The horizon line is always one’s eye level.  If one draws a line perpendicular to the ground outwardly from one’s eye level, this is what is considered the horizon line.”

Then there is this thought: “Be careful not to confuse skyline with horizon line. Skyline is also where the sky and land meet, but is generally in reference to mountains which are almost always above the actual horizon line/eye level.” 

Skyline as Opposed to Horizon Line

Skyline as Opposed to Horizon Line

Here is an abstract landscape painting by Joan Fullerton. Can you see the perceived horizon line or where eye level is?

showing how to paint a perceived line

Aspen Textures, Joan Fullerton

How about this one by Stuart Shils. Where is eye level?

Stuart Shils Landscape

Stuart Shils Landscape

Where am I going with this? I don’t know. I am getting rather left-brained about this topic, but it is something that I need to continue thinking about. When you create a painting or look at a painting are you aware the horizon line or where eye level is? I would love to know what you think?

6 thoughts on “My Struggle with the Horizon Line

  1. dotty seiter

    Fascinating discussion/exploration re horizon line, Ann! In your post you say you find yourself struggling to completely give up the horizon line. Is there a reason why you want to give it up?

  2. Nicholas Herbert

    The ‘horizon line’, whether visible in the work or not, is the relative position of the viewer to the spatial planes that make up the painting. Since the viewer will always instinctively interpret their relative position in relation to representational content, there is always a horizon line in the viewer’s brain, if not within the picture itself. That is to say there is always an implied horizon or eye level. In Stuart Shils’s painting the viewer is above the landscape spread out below, or alternatively the artist’s stylistic treatment of the relative structural planes has flattened the pictorial space and any conventional perceptive is redundant. Now look at your painting at the top, depending on where the viewer perceives the horizon, the foreground is either a vertical plain or not. The water nearest the viewer could be a waterfall for instance, depending on what we think we are looking at and our own personal deciphering of the available information. Neither being right or wrong, however it does impact on the way the viewer ‘reads’ the painting surface. Non of this applies to abstract works of course. Best, Nicholas.

    1. Ann Hart Marquis Post author

      Since you took the time to comment on blog, I wanted to look at your work. Your website is quite well done and your work is intense and dramatic. I very much like your style and its effects.
      Ann Hart Marquis


Leave a Reply