Part Three, Project 4, Exercise 3 -Aerial or atmospheric perspective

This exercise is about tonal gradation. When you’re working with perspective and the suggestion of distance, you should notice that tonal values become lighter as the amount of space between the eye and the horizon increases. Detail is less clear and focus steadily reduced. If there is moisture in the air greater ‘fogging’ occurs and, even on a fine day, it can seem as though veils of blue are layered across the mid to far distance.  In hot and arid zones, aerial perspective barely exists and the hottest tones (such as the reds in the rocky outcrops of the Australian desert) retain their saturated depth far into the distance.

Using drawing media such as charcoal, soft graphite, conté sticks, soft chalky pastel, oil sticks and ink, make several tonal studies that analyse receding features of the landscape from foreground to mid and far distance.  With a light touch, establish the horizon before plotting the basic forms of objects in the landscape. Analyse the gradation of tone away into the distance. You may prefer to use a single colour, using monochrome as a tonal and atmospheric tool.

We were in the perfect place for this exercise- a week away in Scotland!!


Charcoal and pencil sketchbook drawing of a riding lesson with the hills in the distance.  I only had watercolour pencils at my disposal so the drawing is fairly crude, with the background hills much more blue/ purple than the green/orange autumnal trees in the foreground. However, in spite of the clumsy drawing/colouring I think it does give a sense of distance.

Charcoal A2 cartridge paper.  Using a different hotel view as my inspiration I used charcoal to create a landscape with receding hills.  I was very pleased with this picture- the hills in the distance in the valley definitely look a long way away and merge with the cloud in the sky.  The hills in the mid ground are more contrasted against the background- which was pretty accurate compared with what I could see.  The fact they are drawn more carefully brings them further forwards.  Then the foreground is darker and has more detail of trees and fields and hedgerows.  I added a few white crayon highlights just to bring out some of the close features and help smudge in the clouds.  IMG_0864

I spent some time drawing the hotel facade with the hills in the background on a two page spread of my sketchbook.  I started it as a pencil, then an ink drawing, before proceeding to add a watercolour wash.  There are a lot of trees in the foreground on the second page which reduced the interest of the view so I only coloured a section of it.

IMG_0852 IMG_0853

The hills in the background are more grey/blue than the foreground and I do think they recede.  However, they should probably have been paler in colour to blend a little more with the sky.


I then proceeded to play around with this composition a little using acrylic inks, pastels and paint:  the resulting image of the hotel, looked ghostly and more like a castle.  paler swatches of colour created a sense of the background, merging with the sky.  Darker colours in the foreground with bright highlights brought the foreground forwards.   I was pleased with the effect as it creates a sense of a landscape without being a photorealistic representation of the scene.  I like the way the deep colours of the first wash show through and give the picture life.

IMG_0860   IMG_0861


I tried a similar approach again trying to lose even more detail whilst still capturing a sense of place/ landscape and aerial perspective.  This was much less effective- it became too random and the colours are all too bright, meaning that the sense of a foreground/ mid ground and background is lost.  The pale mid section does not work either!


I had another attempt using oil pastels, watercolour pastels and intense colour blocks.  With a little acrylic paint thrown in!  This gives a sense of fore- mid and background effectively.  The hills recede and merge with the clouds and sky.  The building has a sense of 3D form mainly because the  trees to the right are in shadow, although I have not been too particular about detail in the buildings facade, which is actually fairly 2D in representation.  It looks fairly ghostly and blurred.  The light green grass in the foreground suggests a moment of sunshine on an otherwise gloomy day.  It definitely looks cloudy in the distance.


I did a few sketchbook exercises to play around with various media and trying to get a sense of aerial perspective.  Of the three picture below the top one works the best- using oil pastels and smearing it with mineral oil.


watercolour pencils-colours too intenseIMG_0894

Pastel pencils on black paper- pencils are too fineIMG_0893

watercolour washes- foreground works best- blotches of colour in the sky are not effective



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