Category Archives: Part 3: Project 4 (perspective): Exercise 3 – Aerial or atmospheric perspective

Part 3: Project 4 (perspective): Exercise 3 – Aerial or atmospheric perspective


As I live near Cambridge which is flat as a pancake landscapes with Foreground, middle ground and background are difficult to find. So I decided to use photographs. I chose photographs… rather than paintings… because in a painting the simplification, composition and colours have all been done for you.

You’re just copying.

Whereas in a photograph I have to simplify, recompose and pick the colours.



Firstly I tried colour using pastel and conte crayon. Using these on A5 (half an A4 page) was challenging as they are blunt instruments and it’s very difficult to get detail.

However, it forced me to focus on the colour gradation.

In both of these the atmospheric effects of the moisture in the air (I was really surprised that you don’t get aerial perspective in bone dry deserts!) – is obvious and works. The far mountains are less vivid and bluer… and look distant.

The near colours are brighter and not tinged with blue.

Another effect of aerial perspective is the diminishing size and detail, and details less distinct’ of objects – in the Yorkshire dales the sheep and the walls get smaller which makes it look like we are looking at something 3D.


A strange thing happened in the conte crayon of the Lakes… I love the colour composition. (I know that’s not what this exercise is about) – apart from the light blue lake which is a bit of a dead spot in the middle… it’s really buzzing!!!!

I think if I’d added a tiny bit of red to the light blue, so it was just a little purple, it would have tied it into the rest of the drawing.

This is one of the few things I’ve done that I really like!

PS: I used a ‘blending stick’ and had to keep cleaning it (by using the sandpaper) like a paintbrush. If I didn’t it made all my colours muddy.

Also, being a sketchbook and not pastel paper the bite in the paper filled up very quickly and then it became very difficult to change the colour as the pastel just slid over the paper. By the time I’d got to the conte crayons I’d got the hang of the supporting surface drawing medium combo much better.



Having used colour I switched to monotone and chose charcoal for the Scottish mountains and graphite for the Dales river.

(Though I gave up with a graphite stick as it was too difficult and switched to an HB pencil… To keep it monotone I kept with one grade of pencil as although 3H-6B are all pencil if I used the full range they are so different it would be like having a colours.)

I didn’t think this would be as effective (the far distance is not blue but just fainter).


The Scottish mountains don’t need colour and work brilliantly.

A couple of things I noticed:


I was worried that I couldn’t get a very black shade and that it was so fluid it would be difficult to use. But I was really pleased…

It’s very subtle and I used a ‘blending stick’ all the time which helped get the folds in the mountain.

I like the tiny, tiny sliver of the farthest distant mountain which is tonally very close to the one in front of it but really looks like it’s far distant.

All in all, I was very pleased with this, I didn’t expect it to work at all… it’s just a bit of charcoal, very low tech, but it’s quite atmospheric.


I found this frustrating… the HB pencil had a very limited tonal range (even with pressing hard and using the putty rubber).

The near hill was lighter than the darker hill which messed up the aerial perspective… I could have changed it but didn’t. Maybe I was too tied to the reality of the photograph?

To actually ‘copy’ the foreground grass and entwined tree roots/branches on the far bank would have taken hours so I was forced to look for patterns and ways of suggesting this.

Objects getting smaller and detail diminishing worked well to show distance.


Leaving blank paper (it cleaned up really easily with a ruler even though it got covered with dust) worked really well for the water.


Aerial perspective is a great way of giving the illusion of distance in landscapes and could easily be combined with parallel and angular perspective… a far door of a building would not be as bright as a closer one, even if it was (when close up) the same colour… the blue haze is most useful for far distant views… and the diminishing of size and detail would work in almost any drawing.