Thursday, May 22, 2014

Atmospheric Perspective

In 8th Grade today we worked on the next step towards our en plein air water project, which is understanding atmospheric perspective.

There is a strange phenomenon when you look at objects outside. The greater the distance you view the landscape the lighter or hazier the objects appear. This change in light value greatly affects how we approach painting a landscape.

In our class today we developed the idea of three distinct levels of value. Value, as we have discussed is the subtle change from light to dark. This idea of value helps to create depth in the paintings we will create.

We developed the idea of a value scale to measure light and dark. White was given a 0 and black was given a 10.
Image source
 0                                            5                                           10
Value Scale
This scale can now help us to identify three distinct values that help us develop depth and space in our atmospheric perspective composition.

  • Foreground 
    • This is the information that is in the front or we see first in the composition
    • Objects or visual information is dark
    • Value scale =  6 to 10
  • Middle Ground 
    • Objects that appear in the middle of the painting
    • This area of the painting has a medium value
    • Value scale = 4 to 6
  • Background 
    • This is the information that is visually in the back of the painting such as the sky.
    • Objects appear very light or faint
    • Value scale = 0 to 3
These three types of "grounds" were then analyzed by looking out the classroom windows and then by analyzing several different landscape paintings in class.

Atmospheric Perspective
In this image the trees in front have the darkest value which create the foreground as we look back into the composition the lighter the value becomes. The sky and the furthest mountain range creates the background, which have the lightest values. In-between these two types of ground we have the middle ground.

In class we tore scrap paper in such a way that we created several faux mountain ranges. We then used these as templates to draw onto our watercolor paper.

Next starting with the background we created a light wash to establish our sky. We then kept layering our watercolor until we arrived at the "front" or foreground of our atmospheric perspective composition. The detail of the tree layers should be your final destination.

It seems that some students wish to start with details first and then work backwards. With watercolor we wish to start with the lightest value first, which is different than what you may have experienced with other types of paint.

With watercolor it can be very difficult sometimes to lift out darker colors. Watercolor is a transparent medium and thick or heavy applications of pigment can be very difficult to work with.

Happy Painting!!!

Image sources: 
Value Scale
Atmospheric Perspective