Project Four – Exercise 3: Aerial or atmospheric perspective

For this exercise I decided for the monumental view over the lake Lucerne in Switzerland still during my visit there. It was late afternoon, a quite bright day, but with clouds coming down over the mountains towards the lake. It was nearly a silhouette kind of view – with the dark pier in the foreground and the very dark mountains in the middle ground. I wanted to capture this special atmosphere. On the one hand the bright light (with a view far towards the distance and the top of the distant mountains quite sharp and ‘reachable’) and on the other hand the atmospheric appeal of receding mountains with the white and grey clouds formations.

First I did some studies in my A4 sketchbook with pencils and rubber, continued with diluted and undiluted indian ink and brush. The third one I did in marker pens with a selection of warm and cool greys, what I found quite appealing to test for this exercise as otherwise I do not like marker pens for drawing due to the more artificial and illustrative look.

Overall I am not satisfied with the ink study. Not enough differentiated tonal values as I struggled with the dilutions. The marker pen study was helpful in understanding warm and cool values (in grey tones).

Stefan513593 - project 4 - exercise 3  - sketchbook

Stefan513593 – project 4 – exercise 3 – sketchbook

I decided to go for a charcoal study on A3 format. I chose a smooth surface for getting a smooth touch of the overall picture (without paper texture showing through). At the end I found that even with intermediate usage of fixative it was harder to get more charcoal (for deeper blacks) on the paper compared to a rough surface. Overall I am satisfied with the tonal values.

Stefan513593 - project 4 - exercise 3  - charcoal

Stefan513593 – project 4 – exercise 3 – charcoal

The other day I selected a different view over the lake – a sunny day with some clouds and also more foggy view in the distance. So quite good for this exercise. There were multiple layers in front of me: to the right some trees, to the left more receding one mountain with trees and some buildings, and more receding in the centre another mountain. First I did a pencil drawing. I chose a cold press watercolor paper as from project 3 – Ex.2 I liked the specific pencil marks.

Stefan513593 - project 4 - exercise 3  - pencils

Stefan513593 – project 4 – exercise 3 – pencils

I enjoyed working on that composition, as it allowed me to test atmospheric values in five areas: water (left more or less paper white with a few single marks as reflections), the three receding layers (right: sharp and hatching, left: shading with a few hatching, center: shading) , the sky (side of pencil for shading). With this experience I was eager to do a pure color study. I chose watersoluble pastels, as I can make wide marks with the side, finer marks with the tip, and washes for a more uniform color with a brush. My marks were similar to them in pencil: sharp, hatching, shading; plus washes in receding areas.

Stefan513593 - project 4 - exercise 3  - watersoluble pastels

Stefan513593 – project 4 – exercise 3 – watersoluble pastels



  • Pencils (from hard to soft) are a good medium to work out atmospheric and receding layers in a landscape.
  • Indian ink is quite black even diluted, so thin washes need to prepared upfront otherwise the image gets too dark.
  • Charcoal is a wonderful medium for shaping and with a stump I can even tune it down to a desired tonal value.
  • Using color brings a new dimension to the drawing, as the tonal value depends on the thickness of my marks and the specific tonal value of the color itself.

Next time:
– Work more in ink and different tonal values.
– For larger scale work I would more look into how to prepare the surface for specific areas.
– Working out water surface patterns.

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