Swampy Landscape On A Misty Day

Paint A Watery Landscape With Aerial Perspective In This Lesson

It’s also a lesson in effectively using a limited palette of color.

Haze, Mist, Fog, Rain = Aerial Perspective

Aerial perspective – also called atmospheric perspective – is a system used by artists to represent the effect of atmosphere on distant objects – in effect representing space and distance in our painting.

The atmospheric effect captured by aerial perspective is quite pronounced when there is a lot of moisture in the air – when it is rainy, misty, foggy and or hot and hazy. 

There are several things to pay attention to – they are all covered in this lesson. 

Value Arrangement

There is a value sketch for this lesson that we’ll use to guide us through the painting and really show off the aerial perspective.

The value sketch is very simple in that it breaks the picture plane into three areas of space and assigns a single value to each area.  In this case the light values are in the background, the middle values are in the middle ground and the darkest values are in the foreground.  This arrangement really supports the idea of aerial perspective as you’ll see.

Secondary Triad Color Scheme

Although it’s not obvious when looking at the finished painting, the scene is painted with a limited Secondary Triad color scheme – only four colors! The key to working with any limited color palette is accentuating value, chroma and temperature changes.   This lesson covers the ideas and methods for making a limited color palette work.  

What you’ll need:

  • Brushes – Large, Medium and Small Rounds, Rigger
  • Paint – Thalo Green, Cadmium Orange, Dioxazine or Thalo Violet, Burnt Sienna
  • Watercolor paper – preferably Arches 140lb Cold Press cut to about 7″ x 11″ or so. 

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Related Lessons

Value Sketch For Aerial Perspective Scene

value composition sketch for a scene with aerial perspectiveValue Composition Sketches are extremely valuable tools for creating solid and dynamic paintings.  It is an extremely valuable part of the painting process which is often skipped. 

This tutorial is great for those just beginning to work with value composition sketches. It is a simple arrangement of three shapes that represent different planes of space and three distinct values.  

The resulting Value Composition Sketch works for many different scenes, but is very effective for scenes with haze, mist, fog or rain. 

Give it a try, especially if you are new to value composition sketches. 


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watercolor color wheel showing the possibilities of the Secondary Triad Color SchemeThe Secondary Triad is one centers around three colors – Orange, Green and Violet.  Basic Color Theory teaches that these colors are ‘secondary’ since they can be mixed with combinations of two Primary Colors.

The Secondary Triad is limited in that it does not provide a full range of color – there is no blue, yellow or red.  But, some of the intermediate mixtures are surprising and the over all color set is harmonius.

Color harmony is one of the most important reasons to use a limited palette like this one.  Another is that it forces the artist to consider other Characteristics of Color in developing the painting.

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