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When looking at an object we typically center it in our field of view, move either towards it or away from it so that it can be seen clearly at a mid-distance and look straight ahead rather than down or up at it. Not surprisingly, most Japanese artists provided this typical view of flowers and birds – centered, at mid-distance and directly ahead of the viewer – in most of the pictures that they drew. Two examples are shown below, chosen from the Reader Collection of Japanese Flower-and-Bird Art.

  Typical View  

Other artists drew some interesting alternatives with flowers and birds off center instead of centered or close-up instead of mid-distant or above or below the viewer instead of straight ahead. Some examples of these atypical views are shown below, also chosen from the Reader Collection of Japanese Flower-and-Bird Art.

Off center

Japanese artists who were influenced by Chinese art sometimes drew pictures with flowers-and-birds placed off center. In Chinese art, objects were placed off center and the remaining space was left empty to suggest a universe of vast size in which it was only possible to show a few of its many objects in a single picture. Placing flowers and birds off center encouraged the viewer to think about others hidden from view beyond the edge of the picture. Two examples of these off-center views, drawn by Japanese artists, are shown below.

  Off-center View  


Close-up views can be exciting because the viewer's field of view is completely full of interesting objects and the eye doesn't know where to look first. For example, in the picture below there are so many flowers and large leaves that the viewer is unlikely to notice the two small birds without prolonged study. Close-up views require more careful study than mid-distant views to fully appreciate a picture's content.

  Close-up View  

Above or below the viewer

We normally look straight ahead at flowers and birds and see them as part of a landscape with a background of sky above and earth or water below. Consequently, we unconsciously expect to see a background of sky above and earth/water below when we look at a picture of flowers and birds. In pictures where flowers and birds are shown against a background of only sky or only earth/water it can take a moment to realize that they must be either above the picture viewer (only sky in the background) or below the picture viewer (only earth/water in the background). One example of each of these two atypical views is shown below.

  View looking up or down  

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