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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Craighead

Roger Parsons on Aerial Perspective in Landscape Painting

Roger Parsons paints landscapes of the American West and Southwest, for which he has won several awards. A stroke in 2011 ended Roger's structural engineering career, but launched his art career. He has studied with Arturo Chavez, Camille Przewodek, Dan Mieduch, Michael Lynch and Ovannes Berberian. Roger signs his work with a red dot at the end of his name, symbolizing the blood clot that caused his stroke.

In my first blog, I mentioned aerial perspective as a component that distinguishes still life and human figure work from landscapes, without saying anything about it.

So, in a nutshell, here goes. Aerial perspective is the merging of hue and value with distance. That means, the darks get lighter, the lights get darker, and all the colors merge toward a blue or blue-grey. My mantra is: Distance merges color and value. Some artists remember it as: Distance robs color and value. The painting below is a good example.

oil painting of Palo Duro Canyon from Roger Parsons, Hill Country Atelier
Roger Parsons, Prelude to Palo Duro

Aerial Perspective is a topic we cover in the Landscape Classes I teach at Texas Hill Country Atelier.

The shadow side of the bushes, very dark closest to the viewer, get lighter (less dark) with each step back into the picture plane. The bushes on the last cliff of the canyon are relatively very light, and very grey (not dark green). Notice also on the last cliff, there is no distinction between the light and shadow side of the bushes…they have merged into a single color-value. The top plane of the formation, light yellowish grasses, is not as light a value we look farther and farther across the canyon, along the z-axis, “into” the canvas.  

Comparing the front/bottom part of the canyon, to the last major cliff area, it’s easy to see the differences:  bright saturated colors and separation up front, and greyed down color values in the back. The only separation on the last cliff is between greenish grey and reddish grey. Still comparing front to back, look at the light plane on the reddish soil up front.  

In the “bowl" in the middle of the painting, the value contrast of the red soil from shadow to light plane is closer together.

Close up on "bowl" showing less value contrast

On the back cliff face, there is almost no indication of light plane vs shadow plane, i.e., the values are almost completely merged at this distance in the picture plane.  [Of course, there are other things going on to make the painting look right, like linear perspective and edges.]  

oil painting showing the effects of ariel perspective from Hill Country Atelier
Close up showing merging values in the distance due to aerial perspective

The very last visible bit of canyon, in the upper left, is lighter and grayer still, with a few small strokes of a fractionally darker mix, to suggest bushes.  I’m thinking about changing that area, maybe a little bluer greyish red/pink. Or, I may add another layer of blue grey cliff to represent a distant canyon wall. I’m not sure yet. This where a pencil drawing comes in super handy…you can experiment on the drawing and see if a change looks better or worse.

close up of oil painting showing aerial perspective from Texas Hill Country Atelier
Close up of last visible bit of canyon, lighter and grayer

I still have this painting. It’s varnished and “finished,” but maybe not finished yet. Come on out to Kerrville and join us for one of our Landscape Painting Classes.

Happy Painting, Rog.

Roger teaching landscape painting at Texas Hill Country Atelier
Roger teaching at Texas Hill Country Atelier


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