An essential skill for artists, especially landscape artists, is being able to convey a sense of distance. This is achieved through the skillful use of aerial perspective, which comes down to this: features in the landscape closest to the viewer will appear darker in color and more saturated than those which are further away. Landscape features appear to become successively lighter in value and more neutralized the more distant they are. One of the best examples of aerial perspective is the appearance of mountains as they recede toward the horizon. Looking at them, their colors seem to become lighter and lighter and lighter the further away they are. Of course, their colors don't actually change, they only appear to do so.
What causes this? It's due to atmospheric conditions. Dust, air pollution, humidity and other environmental factors affect the way our eyes perceive elements in our physical environment.
Here's a photograph that helps illustrate "aerial perspective":
Notice how the mountains and ridges on the horizon in the photo appear to be increasingly lighter in value and their colors increasingly neutralized the more
distant they are. Those furthest away are almost the same color as the
sky, while those in the foreground are several value levels darker and considerably more vivid.
Knowing how to create the illusion of distance is essential if you paint realistically. But it's very helpful for abstract artists to master as well. If you want to create a sense of depth, aerial perspective can be applied to abstract or non objective works just as effectively. For artists working abstractly, it may not be used as frequently as it is in realism, but for artists working in any discipline it's a very good thing to know.
Text and image ©2014 Lynn Edwards