Artist John F. Carlson described atmospheric perspective as the third dimension of painting – The primary means of creating a sense of space and air in an otherwise two dimensional picture; the expression of space by changes in gradations and distinctness in hue. Aerial perspective, also sometimes referred to as atmospheric perspective, supplies painters with a means to create a sense of mystery, intrigue and enchantment in their work.  Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the first artists to use this powerful tool in his work.

From a painters perspective we want to consider the effect aerial perspective has on  local color. Let’s pretend that I have three rolls of ribbon. One yellow, one red, and one blue. I’m going to take the ribbons and roll them all the way to the horizon.

Let’s see what effect aerial perspective will have on the ribbons.

Rolls of Ribbons

Yellow – first to lose intensity and value

Red – will take on lavender –Purple mountains majesty

Blue – will stay blue hue least effected will lighten in value.

How to use this concept to make better paintings? So if we remember that this effect has four basic influences on elements in our painting; things appear cooler, lighter, duller and softer as they recede to the horizon.

Think the affect of aerial perspective as looking through curtains of atmosphere. The more curtains, (dust, moisture, smoke) we are looking through, the more pronounced the effect of aerial perspective will be.

With Warmest Regards,


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