Aerial perspective as an artistic device. The term was invented by Leonardo da Vinci. There is a saying by Leonardo “Thus if one is to be five times as distant, make it five times bluer.” HE also said that the more distant the objects the more they approach the color of the surrounding atmosphere.
Claude Lorrain and W.M.W. Turner made this term a visual reality. (Oxford Art Online).
Examples (all online images accessed 15 Nov 2016):
Claude Lorrain (1604/5 – 1682) – see Baetjer, 2014):
– ‘The Trojan Women Setting Fire to Their Fleet‘, 1643 (Oil on canvas, 105.1 x 152.1 cm)
– ‘View of La Crescenza’, 1648-50 (Oil on canvas, 38.7 x 58.1 cm)
– ‘Coast View with Perseus and the Origin of Coral’, 1674 (Pen, brown ink, brown, blue, grey wash, heightened with white gouache, 24.7 x 38.2 cm)
W.M.W. Turner (1775 – 1851)
– ‘The Lake of Zug‘, 1843 (Watercolor over graphite, 29.8 x 46.6 cm)
– ‘The Blue Rigi (Sunrise)‘, 1842 (Watercolor on paper, 29.7 x 45 cm)
– ‘Arth, on the Lake of Zug. Early Morning: Sample Study‘, 1842-3 (Graphite, watercolour and pen on paper, 22.8 x 29 cm)
Turner’s watercolor painted based on his sketches from his trip to the Swiss Alps (1842-3) do show his unique approach with additive (successive layers of color) and subtractive markings (the mist and reflections were scraped out of already painted areas) markings.
Goal is to create a sense of distance and receding spaces. There are three ways of doing so: 1) by loose of focus and contrast for areas in the distance, 2) by loss of colour saturation in the distance, c) by applying cool colour in the distance and warm colour in the foreground.
Ruskin was quite critical about the notion of ‘aerial perspective‘ and the idea that some colors (cold colors) do recede in distance and other (warm colors) do approach. Whether a color expresses distance or not depends for him on the local colors of that object: an orange is more orange when looking close at it thus a vivid orange relates to ‘nearness’.
Painting #1: Ink on Fabriano Tela Canvas paper (48 x 69 cm)
Painting #2: Acrylic on Fabriano Tela canvas paper (52 x 79 cm)
Sketchbook ideas: I did earlier on some sketchbook experiment in ink and was intrigued by the way can work with a quite wet surface and ink. Putting the water not entirely onto the paper but keeping a line towards the ‘dry’ part, the following ink only moves on the wet area leaving at times as sharp edge.
Sketchbook studies: Further investigation and color studies. From the third page onwards I used copies of the only black ink painted paper to elaborate further.
Work in progress
Painting #1: Ink on Tela paper
- I started with wetting the support with water, careful to mark the horizon line with water and keep the lower part dry.
- Adding black ink and let the watery surface to make the random ink marks on the wet area. At time the wet ink left traces when flowing downwards. Supporting the flow of ink with water spray.
- After drying adding layers of diluted blue, violet, magenta, and mix of blue and yellow ink in subsequently layers – drying between. This took a couple of days to complete.
- At times certain structures developed randomly – see the tree like shape in the lower part. I worked those shapes into the painting, considering the landscape from memory. At this stage I was more involved in the process of the painting and following my intuition (with memory of my on site experience)
Looking at the final painting I was curious how my first impression with my sketchbook studies would be. I turned the painting upside down – and found out that the turned painting does show a landscape as well, again rather a closer viewpoint, but still perhaps the same nature.
Overall, I do sense that this painting moves into a rather surrealist direction.
Painting #2: Acrylic on Tela paper
- I started with fast brush strokes to block in the receding mountains.
Working further with a wide palette knife to add the middle ground.
- Somehow I was intrigued by the visual image at this stage – rough, from warm to cool colors. Would this painting already be finished?
I kept it for a couple of days at this stage and eventually decided to continue with the painting, perhaps more in consideration of the scope of this exercise. Working with palette knife leaving additive and subtractive marks. I used acrylic medium to add more texture to the middle ground.
Applying additional layers on receding mountains, and modulating further the sky.
Considering the device warm-cool, I kept consciously warmer colors in the fore- and middle ground and cooler colors in the background.
Overall I felt an intense back and force working in the later stages. It reminded me of the intense earth’s powers in the development of the current structures.
- From the three mentioned devices I found for my subject matter the loss in saturation and warm/cool the most suitable.
- I find it harder to work with loss in contrast as especially the horizon line of the mountains are very sharp, and the middle ground do convey for the naked eye a rather low key area. Nevertheless I do think that all three devices are suitable depending on subject matter.
- In painting #2 I stopped in between and struggled with the continuation: I am not that satisfied with the final outcome, feeling the middle ground too dull and less appealing. Wondering how I could have continued after blocking in rather expressively the main areas (see step 3 in work in progress). I felt at times the requirements of the exercise a bit to restrictive. Knowing quite well that this is not the exercise text as such but rather me and being to self-conscious.
- I am wondering about aerial perspective of the sky. As from my embodied experience on site I always feel the sky as the most extending area: from the far distance to the above my head and beyond. I nearly al the time am bending my head to see more. a kind of 180 degree vertical movement. How can I embed this experience into my work?
- Baetjer, K. (2014) “Claude Lorrain (1604/5?–1682).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/clau/hd_clau.htm (accessed 15 Nov 2016)
- Oxford Art Online: http://www.oxfordartonline.com/
- Schaffeld, S (weblog post 20 Aug 2016) ‘John Ruskin – Elements of drawing. Letter 3‘ Available from: https://ocapainting1.stefanschaffeld.com/?p=1990