Sunday, September 9, 2012

Gradations and Perspective

One of the many reasons to paint from life is to condition your eye.  One of the elements you will observe is how Mother Nature employs gradations.  These are passages that flow from light to dark for example.

Sky Gradation, Lost Valley

Here you see the gradations in the sky.  Even the camera picks them up.  The classic is the light to dark beginning at the horizon and moving up to the zenith.  This is covered in John Carlsen's classic book on the landscape.  But look, there is more.  That same gradation also goes from warm to cold - relatively.  And looking from left to right the gradation goes from light to dark and warm to cool.  Painting this you have many options.  For example you might start with a flat blue wash for the sky then overpaint beginning on the left with a tint of light yellow, adding some green to darken and cool, and adding more cool blue to continue the trip.  Ditto from the horizon to the zenith.  There are many options here and I suggest you let your observations and concept guide you.  The sky is seldom "blue" out of the tube.

You will notice that treating the flat wash this way gives the passage depth.  This is part of perspective tool box.

Hay You?

This field shows how a Farmer has used perspective with her tractor.  Yup, a vanishing point for the hay rows.  But looking more closely you will see she has also employed gradations in the field.  From the foreground more chroma to less chroma in the background.  Also you will notice the stubble is coarse in the foreground and smushed in the background.  You could paint this with the double tool of more chroma and active brushstrokes in the foreground and less of each in the background.  You might also add some warmth in the foreground.

You can make water "lay down" in much the same way.

Evening Delight, 12x16, Oil on Canvas

This painting is full of gradations.  Light to dark, warm to cool, thick to thin, colour to no colour, sharp to soft and so forth.


  1. I love the colors of this painting and the way everything comes together. Beautiful!

  2. Thanks Carol,
    This an Inn on the Grand River. Currently closed, it has been inspiration for painters for more than 100 years.