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Old 03-07-2006, 04:25 PM
Deborah Secor's Avatar
Deborah Secor Deborah Secor is offline
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ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

Hi all--I thought it was way past time to post another installment in the ESP threads. This time I thought I'd explore how to create the feeling of depth in a landscape. These elements can also be used in other subject matter, of course, but landscapes are my specialty!

______________________________________

AERIAL PERSPECTIVE:
CREATING A SENSE OF DISTANCE


Aerial perspective, sometimes called atmospheric perspective, is the most effective mans of creating a sense of air between the elements in a landscape painting. There are five key elements that change:

• COLORS COOL
• VALUES LIGHTEN
• DETAILS LESSEN
• EDGES SOFTEN
• CONTRASTS DIMINISH

First and most noticeable is that everything becomes cooler in color and lighter in value. The intensity of warm colors fades. Slowly detail is lost, edges soften and the contrast in value diminishes. In his book Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting, written in 1929, respected art instructor John Carlson explains that as one looks sideways through the progressively thickening atmosphere it is as if there were curtains of air hanging at regular intervals, like veils through which you see. Another way to picture this is to think of one-square-mile blocks of slightly bluish air stacked sideways and upwards, filling the distance. The farther away an object is, the more blocks you must look through and therefore the paler and bluer things become, until even the most distant range of giant mountains is reduced to a mere line that is nearly sky blue. Leonardo da Vinci, the consummate eyewitness of physical effects, noted this bluing of objects with increased distance. In the 1500s he observed that if an object “is to be five times as distant, make it five times bluer.” His advice still applies today. The only exception to this visual rule is the color white. In the distance white becomes slightly dull and warm, a pale pink or very light creamy-yellow. Distant snow is not the same bright white as that in the foreground. Clouds atop the far peaks are somewhat muted in color.

The values of all the other colors become paler in the distance. For instance, although you know that the mountains in the distance are made of the same rock, covered by similar trees, bushes and meadow grasses as those closer to you, the values appear to be muted and grayer. Test this by squinting your eyes so that the distracting color fades away.

Take time to notice the point at which, as you look out, the light of the sky seems to overwhelm everything. Blue light has a short wavelength, which is scattered as it bounces off air molecules more quickly than are the longer wavelength colors red and yellow. This scattering makes the sky blue. As objects increase in distance, warm colored ones are not as rapidly overwhelmed by the blue of the atmosphere, although they eventually lose their strength, as they too are progressively filtered out. This is the reason businesses use red and yellow lettering on their signs, so that they may be spotted sooner and seen for a longer period of time, and why campers choose blue tents that visually blend into the landscape.

Remember that in the foreground plane you see all of the mixtures of red, yellow and blue, while in the middle distance the blue light of the added blocks of air has begun to overwhelm yellow. This leaves all the combinations of red and blue colors until in the greatest distance all but blue is lacking, which is why we think of mountains as purple or blue rather than yellow.
At its most rudimentary you could reduce the landscape to three simple colors: yellow land, purple mountains and blue sky. Notice that these colors move progressively away toward blue on the spectrum. Painting a distant mountain yellow or the foreground plane purple sacrifices the sense of intervening air.

In addition to the elements I’ve discussed, consider these other points:
• Overlapping: When you cover one object with another you create depth.
• Spacing: Things bunched together (like trees) appear farther away.
• Brightness: The brighter the object the closer it seems (except for reflective things.)
• Shadows: Closer shadows are darker in color and value—though still transparent.
• Size: Smaller objects look farther away.

_____________________________________________

Here are some examples of well done aerial perspective.


This is a painting by Bill Hosner called Three Crosses on the Hill. Notice how the distant hill is colorful but more muted in tone than the rest. He’s saved his warmest colors for the foreground buildings, letting the warms become slightly more pink (adding blue), then lavender (more blue), until the sky and clouds are left. Notice that the greens also proceed from yellow-green to blue-greens, retaining a nice variety of colors.


This one is by Richard McDaniel. It also shows the effects of distance on colors as they become bluer and paler in tone. Notice too that McDaniel has used the strongest darks and heightened details in the immediate foreground, as well, which gives a great sense of receding space to the image.


Richard McKinley’s painting, Carmel Springs, shows great control of details, allowing the spare strokes of color to describe retreating hills behind the trees. Notice how he’s used stronger greens in the foreground, which become ever paler and more lavender in color. The strongest rusts are reserved for the trees.


Our own Peggy Braeutigam (PeggyB) shows how to do it in a slightly abstracted landscape, using the red nodding flowers in the fore to catch your eye. The golden-green patch recedes because, although it contains yellow, it remains cooler in color. The details keep you up front, while the elegant simplicity of the shapes behind recedes.



Suzanne Stough Reimel’s painting, Autumn Reflections, shows that the principles here can be applied to any subject matter. The softness of the distant foliage is a great contrast to the near tree’s great rendering, and the delightful reflections.


And Gil Dellinger's painting, North From Rocky Creek, is another great example of aerial perspective! Look at the rich color and control of values he uses...


I'd love to see other good examples of aerial perspective in your paintings, or others by artists you know of. If you do post any work here by others, please be sure to give them full credit by name and title, if you can, and let's try to keep all of them pastels, too!

Deborah
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Old 03-07-2006, 08:08 PM
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Re: ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

This is so informative, Deborah. Thanks so much for posting it.

binkie
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Old 03-07-2006, 08:15 PM
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Re: ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

It just so happens.... I have a just completed studio painting up my sleeve.
The main elements of aerial perspective that I used were lessening of detail, lighter colors, bluer colors and lessening of contrast. The air portrayed was the crystalline air of midwinter say 20 below with little moisture content so that the bluing was less a factor than the reduction of contrast and lighter colors to denote distance.
"Winter Lake Morning" 12 x 18 Soft Pastel on 140 CP WC paper with a graded wash of light UM Blue underpainting.



BillF
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Old 03-07-2006, 08:46 PM
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Deborah Secor Deborah Secor is offline
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Re: ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

Happy to post it, Binkie!

Wow--Bill, this is a terrific example! I love the exciting palette that speaks so much of cold and warmth, the icy air and the sunrise colors. Delicate yet bracingly strong. Very nice.



This is one of my paintings, which I posted as its own thread. I was trying to catch a feeling of space between the front branches and the rock--not a terribly long distance. Sometimes it's harder to get 'air' into a narrow space. It was tough with the darkness of the rock predominating, but I think having the nearest tree a strong, warm color helped.

I hope others have examples to share. Show us your work, too!

Deborah
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Old 03-07-2006, 09:01 PM
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Re: ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

A great thread, Deborah... thanks for sharing the great info! Got to mention, though, how much I love your use of purples in the rocks! YUM!
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Old 03-07-2006, 11:19 PM
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Deborah Secor Deborah Secor is offline
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Re: ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

Yummy purple rocks, eh? Rock on! Thanks, Tammy...

Deborah
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Old 03-08-2006, 02:52 AM
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Re: ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

Deborah, another wonderfully informative ESP with great illustrative examples. I really like the addition of your example and the painting by Reimel because they show the same rules of aerial perspective in a very short range.

I learned a lot about the bluing (cooling of colors) and fading of detail working on my last few landscapes, Colorado River and Tahoe Scene. Especially on the Colorado River scene, I kept wanting to add mre detail to the distant cliffs because my ref had more detail. My instructor kept telling me to knock back the detail and I would do it and then begin adding it back. Finally I saw that her instruction distanced the cliffs and my added detail kept pulling them forward even though they were cool in coloration. I can be so stubborn....sigh...

Then for my newest painting, Gossip, an animal scene, it all gelled and I instictively made the forward elephant warm in color and the further back elephant more purply blue. Amazing! Seems like they would be contradictory or like two different species, but they don't look that way at all...the farther elephant just looks farther away.

I think this has been a very important lesson.

Another detail that we discussed in class last week about landscapes or anything outdoors under a blue sky was that the blue of the sky will reflect in some way on everything under it, no matter how close or warm. So much to learn...

Mikki
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Last edited by Mikki Petersen : 03-08-2006 at 03:04 AM.
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Old 03-08-2006, 10:08 AM
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Re: ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

Yes Mikki, I throw in too much detail in the distance also. I see the lack of detail in the distance of other's paintings yet don't pull out the details myself.
I think that what I am doing is 'seeing' the inferred detail in distant subjects. So I put in detail that my mind has inferred yet is not really there IRL. This is precisely the detail that I should let the viewer infer for themselves. The lack of detail denotes distance to the viewer of the painting even though the viewer may 'infer' more detail than is actually present in the painting. Did that make sense? If I put in that inferred detail it works against aerial perspective. Even in the painting I posted above I could have left out more info from the most distant tree line... BillF
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Old 03-08-2006, 12:41 PM
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Deborah Secor Deborah Secor is offline
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Re: ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

'Inferred' detail is a lot of what painting landscapes is all about. (Really any subject matter, as Mikki pointed out so well! Great examples, Mikki.) Let the viewer complete the picture, which engages them in the process.

For instance, look at this painting by Tony Allain:

How much more detail would you really need to understand the place? Interestingly enough, he uses little detail in the fore and somewhat more in the distance, yet there is still a sense of far distance beyond. It has a feeling of atmosphere, even without details.

Here's another one of his with a bit less distance, but a sense of 'less is more'. What bits of detail he uses are so effective:

Of course, I think Allain is a master at this.

Then there's someone like Fred Somers (this is his painting called Lights Fantastic), who manages to do the same thing using plenty of detail:

Even though the depth of this one is not great, he spares some details in the more distant trees, controls the color and values, to arrive at 'air'!

I sometimes challenge myself to paint a complete landscape with as little detail as possible just to see if I can do it. Here are a couple.

Orange Cloud


The Gold of the Land

Less is more for me!

Deborah
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Old 03-08-2006, 02:52 PM
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Re: ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

Again, thanks a lot for a excellent lesson. Very interesting and informative.
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Old 03-08-2006, 04:27 PM
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Re: ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

Dee...Interesting post. I really enjoyed viewing the works of Tony Allain!! Does he have a site that you might be able to share? Mike
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Old 03-08-2006, 04:37 PM
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Re: ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

Mike, if you just Google his name you'll get all kinds of hits. I've never found any one site that was his alone. He's well known in the UK, with lots of representation and many signed and numbered prints. Look at this one... Jackie Simmonds put me onto him, and I have to say that I want to paint like him when I grow up!

Deborah
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Old 03-08-2006, 04:38 PM
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Re: ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

Deborah,
I LOVE lessons that have such gorgeous work accompanying them! All of them, just so inspiring and so very interesting to view. Ahhh, more and more inspiration and I'm learning all the while!
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Old 03-08-2006, 06:36 PM
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Re: ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

Quote:
Originally Posted by dee_artist
Mike, if you just Google his name you'll get all kinds of hits. I've never found any one site that was his alone. He's well known in the UK, with lots of representation and many signed and numbered prints. Look at this one... Jackie Simmonds put me onto him, and I have to say that I want to paint like him when I grow up!

Deborah

Thanks Dee..I had look at that site earlier..in addition to his landscapes I also like his figure work...very interesting work!!
Thanks for sharing
Mike
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Old 03-08-2006, 07:57 PM
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Re: ESP (Explore Soft Pastels)- Aerial Perspective

What a great thread this is. thanks

lierrem

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