Part 4 Perspective

1. Linear Perspective

For this exercise I chose to paint a view that I see regularly on my way to work, that of the High street in Chipping Campden, a well-preserved historic Cotswold’s town. I love the honey-colour of the stone especially after it has been raining and the sun then comes out again. I drew part of this High Street for exercises in Drawing 1 and I have alway wanted to have ago at painting it. I chose a less well-known part of the High street that has tall houses and an interesting kink in the road. By cropping in close to this kink you get a wonderful sense of the pavement curving around, with two different vanishing points. I am aware that my better work is quick and spontaneous, however as this exercise is about understanding linear perspective I had to take time to do preliminary pencil drawings on my support to ensure that my lines were heading to a vanishing point.

Preliminary sketch
Gesso layer

I had a large piece of mounting board which I covered with gesso to make a suitable surface for oil. I wanted to try to add texture into my painting, to give a sense of the stone. Not really how to go about this, I added another thicker layer of gesso over a brief pencil outline of my main vanishing lines. I let brush marks remain in this thick layer. Once dried, the effect had flattened somewhat but was still visible in places.

Using a mixture of payne’s grey and raw umber I then drew with my paintbrush the main lines extending to the two vanishing points. I used my pencil lines as a guide, but stuck to the lines that would ultimately be in shadow in my final piece (ie I didn’t’ do an outline of all the buildings!) I simplified the brickwork in places.


I then used a broad brush to add in thick lines of a mix of yellow ochre and white following the line of the building in the direction of the pavement, trying to construct the linear perspective with the paint and to maintain a loose brushwork style.  I repeated the process with the furthest building using the different vanishing point as a guide. Once these lines were established I then started to block in the main colours of the windows, roof, pavement and sky. I then left the painting to dry for a few days before returning to it.

Intermediate stage oil on top of gesso

My final working of this painting was to bring some of the freshness back into it. I had lost some of the lovely stone colour and the first building has developed a bit of a lean! I tried to rectify this as much as I could without losing the character of the building itself. It is still leaning a little too much though.

High Street, Chipping Campden.


What worked…

I am very pleased with the sense of journey in this painting. The pavement stretches ahead of the viewer and the bend in it is believable. The line of dark doorways and windows of the first building really help establish this distance. I have tried to maintain a looseness of the brushwork, but the essence of this is lost a little with the layering of the paint.

What was less successful…

My verticals need to be more vertical (this is a problem I had when drawing large-scale too!) I used a ruler as a guide but still managed to get a weird slope. The top line of windows does not follow a line of perspective very well. The second window on the top row doesn’t appear to be tall enough. My construction with paint also has been lost a little in the layering. The painting is quite boring as a result, not because of the subject matter but because there isn’t much energy in the piece. My preceding painting of the city scape, whilst not overly successful in its execution has more of this energy even though the paint application was quite experimental.


2. Aerial Perspective

I chose to paint a simple mountain landscape with a tall grass in the foreground from a photograph. I mapped out a quick sketch to make sure I was encompassing the three principles of aerial perspective, namely

  1. controlled loss of focus
  2. loss of colour saturation
  3. change in colour temperature

Using acrylic on acrylic paper I completed this painting. originally the sky and the far mountains were too saturated and did not show such a controlled loss of focus. I wanted to paint over the mountains and the lower sky with a dilute transparent white but only had titanium which was a little too opaque. So I painted a layer of gesso over instead, which seemed to do the trick!

‘Blackboy grass on Mount Stuart’. Acrylic on paper

I believe this shows all three components of aerial perspective, some with more effect that the others.  The foreground is in focus with a gradual haziness towards the far mountains. There is loss in colour saturation, although I lost the more saturated top part of the sky that would seem nearer to the viewer with the addition of the gesso. As it dried the seemingly darker top lightened too much. The greens in the foreground are warmer and have more yellow hues about them (interestingly the photo shows these greens to be more saturated than the actual painting appears, probably due to slightly blue conditions of lighting). There is a distinct colour shift to cool greens at the base of the middle mountains.

I also experimented using a palette knife on its edge to create interesting grass shapes  in the foreground. Looking back at this however I can see that I have lost my darks in the dry, spiky foliage.

In this particular painting, all three components of aerial perspective were useful. I can however see instances when a controlled loss of focus may be less important than the others (see for instance the work of Dora Corrington) , however a cooler colour change and loss of saturation would appear very important at denoting receding space and distance.




Part 4 Perspective

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