Jen’s Picks: Creating Aerial Perspectives by Maggie Price

High altitudes can be a unique challenge in portraying aerial perspective. The thin, often dry air challenges the rule that objects become cooler in temperature and lighter in value with softer edges as they recede into the distance. If we paint what we see, we set up conflicts that may confuse the viewer. Maggie Price shows us how to paint a convincing aerial perspective using pastel techniques, below.

You can find this four-step demonstration and many other step-by-step demonstrations by Maggie Price in Painting Sunlight and Shadow with Pastels. Plus, get a free download: 5 Simple Effects to Gain Atmospheric Perspective in Your Art



16″ °— 16″ (41cm °— 41cm) white Richeson premium pastel surface on Gatorfoam


Mountains: dark blue, dark blue-green, light blue-gray, middle-value blue-gray, very light blue

Sky: middle-value cerulean blue, very light gray-blue, very light yellow-white

Snow: blue-white, darker blue, lavender, light blue-gray, pink, very light blue

Trees, willows and grasses: beige-brown, brown, blue, blue-gray, dark black-green, dark red, dark-value brown, green-brown, gray-brown, gray-green, lavender, lavender-gray, light blue-gray, light gray, magenta, middle-dark beige, middle-value gray, purple-gray, red-orange, very light pink, yellow-green

Water: blue-purple, dark blue, cerulean blue, very light turquoise blue

Underpainting: beige-brown, black-green, blue, blue-green, brown, cerulean blue, dark blue, dark blue-gray, light blue, light blue-gray, magenta-pink, middle-value blue, middle-value blue-gray, middle-value cerulean blue, middle-dark blue, pinkish brown, pink-white, purple-gray, red, reddish gray, very light blue, yellow ochre


Pastel Pencils

Sketch: middle-value blue

Trees: brown-black, middle-value orange, middle-value warm gray, pale gray, white



No. 10 Filbert hog hair bristle (or a flat hog hair bristle), Turpenoid


Choose Your Photo

Cropping the photo to a square format will remove some foliage from each side, which does not add to the composition. The river leads the eye to the distant mountains, and revising the composition will emphasize that visual direction. On the right-hand side, the warm color of the cropped willows can be picked up for the clump of willows near the water, bringing this area forward in the picture plane.


1 Complete the Sketch

Using a middle-value blue pastel pencil, sketch the composition onto the surface. Simplify the foliage, particularly the willows in the foreground.








2 Create the Underpainting

Block in large areas of color fairly close to what you want in the final painting. Use a middle-value cerulean blue for the sky; don’t worry about the clouds at this stage. In order to create a feeling of distance, block in the distant mountains with a light to middle-value blue-gray. Don’t worry about the small shapes of snow, and don’t block in the thin, wispy tree branches on the right—those will come later. Lay in the darkest darks with dark blues, black-green for the dark trees, and brown. Block in the midground hillside with yellow ochre and the bushes with several values of pinks, reddish gray and red. The

more distant snow masses should be blocked in with a light blue and the foreground snow with a pink-white. Lay in the color of the water with a cerulean blue.

Once you have all the colors in place, wash each color with Turpenoid, being careful to keep colors clean and separate.

3 Paint the Distance and Midground

Once the underpainting is dry, repaint the sky with a slightly lighter value blue, and paint the clouds with a light gray-blue. Paint the distant mountains, using a very light blue for the snow and a light blue-gray for the land and rocks peeking through. As you move down the mountain range, use a little darker blue for the shadowed area that is not covered by snow and a blue-gray that’s a little darker still for the angled mountain slope on the right. Lay in the midground trees and hillside, using pastel pencils in brown-black, middle-value gray and pale gray for the bare trees and the thin white trunks of the aspen. Holding the pastels on the side, use a light beige-brown and light gray to skim a little pastel on the surface to indicate the tiny, wispy branches on the bare aspen trees. Paint the dark fir trees with blue-gray, green-brown and dark black-green.


4 Add Finishing Touches

Paint the snow, paying attention to the darker edges where it meets the water. Use blue-white for the more distant snow so that the cool color will help it recede; use very light values of lavender and pink for the closer snow masses and a darker blue for those edges. Paint the willows in the center left and far left with warmer colors—dark red, red-orange and magenta, as well as warm browns—so that the warm colors will help bring them forward. Paint the reflections of the center red willow with the same colors and smudge it a little, then skim a little cerulean blue ripple over it here and there. Paint the water with dark blue, cerulean blue and blue-purple. Finally, finish the small, brushy willows on the right bank, keeping their colors a little more neutral—using lavender-gray and gray brown—so as to not distract from the focal point.


Winter Palette – Maggie Price

Pastel on white Richeson premium pastel surface – 16″ °– 16″ (41cm °– 41cm)

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