Atmospheric Perspective, ii

So, we continue with Phil Metzger’s studies on perspective; specifically, atmospheric perspective.  As a refresher, atmospheric perspective relies on the use of color for its depiction of depth, near and far.  The usual rule is warmer, more intense colors are closer, and the cooler and bluer or greyer colors show distance because of the intervening air – damp or smoggy or both.  Weather and climate impact both, as well as altitude.  At the beach, there is more moisture in the air, as opposed to the dry air of the high desert.

As Metzger points out, the further buildings become, the lighter their colors become, or greyer (if white), and edges less defined.  I attempted this below.

Here, I used the same shade of blue for all three buildings, but to indicate distance, I diluted the watercolor and added a bit of orange to it to create a grey.  The same concept was applied to the driveway and to the trees.  The greys made by complimentary colors is at the bottom of the sheet.

The next lesson was to consider what happens when you do not follow the rules of “warm in front, cool in back” – he gave a sample line drawing and showed what it would look like.  I did this – doing something makes it more real than just looking.  So, I did it.  The upper drawing is more traditional – cool in back, warm in front.  It works.

However, look at how strange the same image looks with cool in front and warm in back.  I used the same colors, but reversed their positions.  The bottom one is rather eerie and makes me think of that strange light you get in some storms.

Moving on, this idea is brought home on page 23.  A photograph at the top shows the classic atmospheric perspective – warm front, cool back.  However, the opposite is done in the painting “Charlie’s Place” – warm sky in the distance, warm trees.  It’s dawn or sunset – who knows?  The warmth becomes cooler toward the bottom edge of the paper.  Here, the “rule” is broken, but the painting works.

To practice the cool top / warm bottom, as in the photo at the top, I painted a similar image based upon Metzger’s photo.  I threw in some birds and added a few verticals, but overall stuck to the idea of the cool sky, bluish mountains, distant greens, and increasingly warm tones to indicate the foreground.

Next is my rendition of “Charlie’s Place” – below, my sketch and notes.

This is an excellent study to show you how to break the rules!  The cropped image is below, which shows the concept more clearly as there are not any distractions.

While the correct sense of depth is not really there – rather flat around the buildings in some ways – the lesson is there.  It really does seem to be a rather believable scene.  The sky is yellow – we’ve all seen such skies, at sunrise or in the evening.  The light is glowing.  As we move into the foreground, the colors of oranges give way to blues and greys.  To do this, I used Pyrrol Orange and Hansa Yellow for the sky.  The more distant trees have Burnt Sienna added; the nearer ones have both Ultramarine and Indathrene blues.  These same blues are used to create snow shadows and to make the shadows of the buildings – same orange, yellow, and brown as the background.  Greys were made from the blues and orange and used to tone down the buildings in areas, as well as to create the shadows on the snowy rooftops.  Perspective in the layout of the road and fence posts add to the illusion of depth.

Some Thoughts

You know, you can read a book and get the idea.  I usually do that.  However, now that I have time, I am enjoying following the exercises and samples in this book.  While these are elementary in many ways at this point, they are very significant.  Rules are there and usually work, but doing the reverse also illustrates that rules are to be broken without any ill effect.  Practicing painting along with drawing is getting easier, too, and I hope that each exercise adds to my knowledge so that painting becomes more personal and professional at the same time.

2 thoughts on “Atmospheric Perspective, ii”

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