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Aerial Perspective Lesson

 

Aerial Perspective Lesson
Aerial Perspective Lesson

Aerial Perspective also called Atmospheric Perspective, is the effect that the atmosphere has on the color and tone of a landscape when it is viewed over a distance. It is a very effective tool for landscape painting and is a less complicated technique to learn than linear perspective.

Aerial Perspective combines four key elements to create the illusion of depth and distance in a landscape:

  • The size of objects become smaller the further they are from the viewer.
  • The details of objects decrease the further they are from the viewer.
  • The tones of objects weaken the further they are from the viewer.
  • The colors of objects begin to fade the further they are from the viewer.

This is a simple lesson that demonstrates the visual impact of aerial perspective. It teaches students how to build up a landscape drawing in layers, while using graduating tones and colors to convey the illusion of depth and distance.

Researching Your Subject

 

Sketch sheet of references for aerial perspective.

Sketch sheet of references for aerial perspective.

It is always good practice to begin an artwork by researching your subject to get to know the type of shapes you will be drawing. To that end, you should make some sketches or collect some images of rooftops, chimneys, clouds and distant horizons to use as visual references.

 

Sketch sheet of references for aerial perspective.

Sketch sheet of references for aerial perspective.

In our research sheet above we have sketched some domestic chimneys to use in the foreground, some factory buildings for the mid-ground and a city skyline for the background. The decreasing scale and diminishing detail in these three sketches make them ideal for creating the illusion of depth in aerial perspective.

Drawing the Landscape - Step 1

 

The Sky Area and the Landscape Area

The sky area and the landscape area.

Take an A3 sheet of heavy cartridge paper and arrange it vertically. Using a pencil, lightly mark the center of the sheet to separate the areas of sky above and landscape below.

 

Drawing the Landscape - Step 2

 

Drawing the lower section of the landscape area and the upper section of the sky area.

Draw the lower section of the landscape area and the upper section of the sky area.

In the lower section of the landscape area, draw the outline of nearby rooftops across the sheet of paper. Focus the detail on domestic chimney shapes, some of which may be larger suggesting that they are closer to the viewer while others may be smaller suggesting that they are slightly further away. This starts to create an illusion of depth within a single outline.

In the upper section of the sky area, draw the lower edge of a layer of clouds descending from the top of the page.

 

Drawing the Landscape - Step 3

 

Drawing the middle sections of the landscape and sky areas.

Draw the middle sections of the landscape and sky.

In the middle section of the landscape area, draw the outline of more distant rooftops across the paper. The detail here should include a greater variety of architectural shapes to create a mixture of domestic and industrial structures and the scale of the buildings should be smaller than the lower section.

In the middle section of the sky area, draw another layer of clouds below the upper layer.

 

Drawing the Landscape - Step 4

 

Draw the upper section of the landscape area and the lower section of the sky area.

Draw the upper section of the landscape and the lower section of the sky.

In the upper section of the landscape area, draw a skyline across the paper. The detail here should include high-rise buildings and towers that would be visible from a distance. The scale of the buildings should be smaller than those in the middle section.

In the lower section of the sky area, draw a final layer of clouds. These should leave a small gap above the skyline to form the distant sky. You may now erase the guide line that separated the sky area from the landscape area.

 

Drawing the Landscape - Step 5

 

Add some vertical trails of smoke to link the landscape to the sky.

Complete the drawing with some vertical trails of smoke.

In the final stage of our drawing, the composition seemed too horizontal so we added some vertical trails of smoke to the 'factory' layer of the landscape in order to break up its parallel structure. Each trail of smoke was 'welded' to a different layer of cloud to strengthen the illusion of depth as their scale decreases in the distance. They also act as transitional shapes between the hard lines of the architecture and the soft contours of the clouds.