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Aerial Perspective Lesson

 

Aerial Perspective - Monochrome
Aerial Perspective - Monochrome

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.

As with any lesson it is always good practice to begin by researching your subject and getting to know the type of shapes and forms you will be drawing. For this lesson you could make some sketches and/or collect some photographs of rooftops, chimneys, clouds and distant horizons to use as visual references.

You can draw your images from observation, imagination or, which is probably best, a combination of both.

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 a single 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 areas.

In the middle section of the landscape area, draw a single 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 the lower edge of a 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 area and the lower section of the sky area.

In the upper section of the landscape area, draw a single outline of an architectural 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 the outline edge of a layer of clouds below the middle layer. This should result in a small gap between this lower layer of clouds and the upper section of the landscape. 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.

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

At this stage, the composition of our image was too horizontal so we added some vertical trails of smoke to the middle layer of the landscape in order to break up its parallel structure. Each trail was 'welded' to a different layer of cloud and will later inherit the color of that layer. The lines where they join have been erased to unify their forms and make their link to the clouds more obvious. These trails of smoke strengthen the illusion of depth as their scale decreases in the distance and they also act as transitional shapes between the hard lines of the architecture and the soft contours of the clouds.

 

Drawing the Landscape - Step 6

 

Add an informal arrangement of birds to complete the drawing.

Add an informal arrangement of birds to complete the drawing.

At the final stage of drawing we have introduced some simple bird shapes which not only add an element of informality to the image but also increase its sense of depth due to the variations in their scale.

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