Exercise: Aerial perspective


View from Spoleto Umbria, acrylic on paper, 33 x 33cm

Paint a simple a landscape in which you exploit the three devices of aerial perspective…

While in Umbria I sat in a cafe in Spoleto and did a quick watercolour painting of the view across the valley, with a winding road going towards the mist shrouded mountains in the distance and so I’ve attempted to recreate this scene in acrylics, with the aid of one not very good photograph.


Initial A4 sketchbook watercolour

What works?

  • The composition is quite pleasing… the road acts as guide through the painting. I cropped the composition to remove the right-hand side of the picture which has given a better colour balance and removed an unnecessary and not very well drawn building.
  • The colour palette works  and feels cohesive.
  • Colour, focus and detail fade out in the distance

What doesn’t work so well?

  • aerial-intermediateAgain I have over complicated a painting. I took a photo (right) at an intermediate stage and vowed not to add much more than a few windows and trees… this is what I did but I should have stopped sooner.
  • The building in the distance could  be a little smaller. It’s a composite painting in which I pulled the parts closer together than they are actually were and rearranged them a little.
  • The colours were initially too vivid and I put a wash of slightly grey white across the whole picture. This has dulled the colours  more than I intended but there is something pleasing about the sense of early morning mist. I later put back a little of the foreground green and added a few touches with a palette knife to give some definition.

Before cropping

Which device did you find most effective or is it necessary to combine all three to achieve the desired effect? 

It all depends on what the desired effect is. All three devices clearly work well together but you might wish to put something in the distance in sharp focus if it is an important part of the story being told. I’ve noticed that Andrew Wyeth often does this (see The Turkey Pond in which the pond in the distance is in very sharp focus).

In this painting I chose not to put the foreground detail into sharp focus because I was aiming for a more impressionistic effect. Perhaps I should let some brighter / warmer light filter through in places? I will have a think about this and look at Turner’s paintings.


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