Using Atmospheric Perspective to Gain Depth and Realism
You can apply aerial perspective to any type of painting. It’s commonly used for landscapes, but also applies to any painting in which the background should be deliberately seen as distanced further from the main subject.
In addition to being featured in The Artist’s Magazine, Anthony Waichulis has also contributed to the Ask the Experts column, in which readers submit questions about art–looking for advice in all art-related topics–and get answers from professionals. Here’s a free excerpt from November 2010 by Waichulis that describes atmospheric perspective as it relates to water in a landscape.
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Create Aerial Perspective within a Reflection
Q. When depicting the reflection of an object in water, how does one determine the proper length of the reflection?
A. The length of the reflections seen on the surface of water is governed by the orientation of the viewer in reference to the reflective surface (body of water) and the object appearing in the reflection. The higher the observer is from the reflective surface, such as water, the shorter the reflections will appear. The closer the observer is to the reflective surface, the longer the reflections will appear. For example, a viewer observing a lake from a hilltop will see the reflections of objects on the far side of the lake as shorter in length as opposed to a viewer observing from the shoreline. To get a good sense for how these lengths vary, I would recommend as much natural observation as possible while varying your orientation, in terms of height and distance, to the body of water you’re observing. —A.W.
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Tricks of the Trade: Atmospheric Perspective by Anthony Waichulis
“In Orchestrating the Drama, there’s a varied selection of textures. The skull, which is populated with a great deal of surface variations, still needs to communicate a strong and recognizable form,” says Waichulis. “If you squint your eyes (an observation technique that I find valuable), you can see most of the texture disappear, and you’re left with the basic form of the skull. I’m very selective about where and how much surface texture I employ. At the top of the skull, I’ve omitted a lot of surface texture to illustrate a strong highlight. This is where texture placement becomes tricky: Where will it work best? The answer comes through observation. Study your objects thoroughly and squint at the objects to see if they look three-dimensional without the noticeable surface details.”
Learn more ways to heighten a sense of depth in your paintings in Waichulis’s 5 Simple Effects for Atmospheric Perspective in Art!
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