P is for . . .


April 18, 2014 by Ray Yanek



Instead of focusing on a particular artist or work, I thought I’d take a look at an artistic technique, something that maybe I could learn to recognize in other paintings that I’ll eventually look at.

Perspective, as it’s important not only to visual artists but to writers as well, seemed like a good place to start.

Atmospheric perspective:  Year ago, I was lucky enough to find myself on a

The Wanderer Above The Sea of Fog by Caspar Friedrich

The Wanderer Above The Sea of Fog by Caspar Friedrich. Notice how the colors grow lighter and the images more hazy.

mountaintop in Switzerland.  I stood at the summit and marveled at the soft colors n the distance– at the soft white of the clouds below me, at the pale blues of the sky so far away.  I remember the hazy gray of the peaks that poked through the blanket of clouds. Those soft and pale colors are as vivid in my memory as the computer screen in front of me is currently.

What I was witnessing there, was atmospheric perspective that is used in landscape paintings.  KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAtmospheric perspective uses a gradation in color to show distance.  Colors become softer and paler the further away they are, just as they become hazier in their appearance.

Intuitive Perspective:  This perspective deals more with objects and spacing.  Objects that are close to the viewer will be larger and spaced further apart from other object, while objects in the distance will be smaller and closer together.  I

Oblique Perspective:  This one is a lot trickier as it involves a lot of that pesky geometry.  In this perspective, one edge of a structure or a building is in the plane of the painting, but then the edge of that structure recedes at an angle to a ‘vanishing point’ on the horizon.

This can further be broken down into:

A one-point perspective where the diagonal lines meet at one vanishing point on the horizon.

The School of Athens By Raphael. Source:  The Science of Art and Perspective

The Schook of Athens By Raphael.
Source: The Science of Art and Perspective (click photo for full site)


A two-point perspective where two vanishing points exist. In the painting below, note the building in the background.  We see the edge and then the sides of the building that aim towards two separate vanishing points.

Caillebotte's Jour de pluie a Paris. Source: Artistdaily.com (click link for full site)

Caillebotte’s Jour de pluie a Paris.
Source: Artistdaily.com (click painting for full site)


And finally a three-point perspective where three vanishing points exist.  Notice again how the edges aim to three different points.

As I came into this topic, I thought learning about these different perspectives might aid my writing, especially in regards to descriptions of place.  I definitely see the value in the atmospheric perspective, but I think I’m going to have to think on whether I could incorporate the other methods into written passages.

If you have any thoughts or ideas, I would love to hear them!


7 thoughts on “P is for . . .

  1. Author says:

    Your posts on art and artists have been fascinating. (Wondering if you’re going to do Anders Zorn for Z! b/c just saw exhibit and it blew me away — and I’d never heard of him ;-p)

    • Ray Yanek says:

      Thank you so much… it’s been a lot of fun doing this although I wish I had more time to focus on this. And I’ve never heard of Zorn either, but that sounds like a great ‘z’! Thanks for the tip!

  2. This was a really cool way to use P, when I look at works of ART I do often ponder on perspective, no pun intended and there it goes another P… #AtoZchallenge ☮Peace ☮ ღ ONE ℒℴνℯ ღ ☼ Light ☼ visiting from http://4covert2overt.blogspot.com/

  3. Kathe W. says:

    very fun and instructive post! I have a quirky way of seeing perspective when I draw…it’s not easy to get it right.

  4. P Liegl says:


    Great post! I love it when my math student like art and often miss that it is full of geometry.
    I had a student do a poster on “perspective geometry”. It is an important part of architectural drawing, as well.
    Looking at different objects, views, … from different perspectives is fascinating and trying to write a story or short piece from a different perspective is great!


  5. […] few days ago I wrote a piece for the letter P about the use of perspective in art.  You can read that here if you’d like, and I struggled with wrapping my head around the concept of vanishing points, angles, […]

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