Aerial Perspective

PASS: 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 3.1, 3.3, 4.2, 4.3
This lesson is an introduction to aerial perspective based on the works of French Impressionist painter
Claude Monet. “Painting Oklahoma” is a good follow-up lesson for the geography lesson “Mesas to Tall
Grass Prairies: Where History Happened”.
Content Background Information Required:
No necessary background information is necessary.
Student Objectives:
 The students will critique specific works of art by Claude Monet according to the use of aerial
 The students will examine the historical context of Impressionism.
 The students will examine the basic ideas underlying Impressionism.
 The students will create an oil pastel painting using the components of aerial perspective and
the Impressionism techniques.
 The students will self/peer evaluate their posters using the rubric provided.
Handouts on:
Elements and Principles of Art
Claude Monet
Color Wheel
Impressionist Vocabulary
Oil Pastel Rubric
Photographs from the geography lesson, “Mesas To Tall Grass Prairies: Where History
Happened”. (included in lesson powerpoint)
“Painting Oklahoma” powerpoint
Oil Pastel video demonstration
Heavy drawing paper
Oil Pastels
Lesson Preparation:
Ahead of time, the teacher will need to make color copies of the photographs from the geography
lesson, “Mesas to Tall Grass Prairies” that included in the powerpoint.
Students will also need color copies of the color wheel or the teacher can have one color wheel poster
at the front of the room for all students to refer to.
For the opening show one of the photographs from the geography lesson, “Mesas to Tall
Grass Prairies”. Ask students,
 “What in the picture looks like it is closest?”
 “What in the picture looks like it is further away?”
 “In this picture, is anything really closer than anything else?” (Students will probably say
yes, but emphasize to them that this is just a picture where everything is on the same
piece of paper.)
Tell students that what happens in a landscape picture is just an illusion called perspective. Ask students
to again look at the photograph and ask them:
 “If objects are not really closer in a picture, why do some objects appear to be closer than
others?” (Students will probably notice that closer things appear larger, brighter in color, more
detailed. They may or may not also notice that further objects are placed closer to the horizon
line, but this is one component that many will NOT figure out for themselves. Don’t tell them.
They will figure it out later.)
If possible, take students outside to a sidewalk. Choose three students, approximately the same
height, who have on shirts that have some kind of pattern on it. Ask one student to walk a block up
the street and then turn and face the class. Ask the other student to walk half-way up the street
and turn and face the class. Have the third stand only a few feet away. Now ask students:
 “Do these objects in real life show the same characteristics that you saw as an illusion in the
photograph?” (Students should see that the closer student does appear taller (but remind them
that the three are really the same height), the closer student’s details can be seen more clearly
(the shirt design, the individual hairs on their head, their shoe laces, etc. They also notice that
colors are not as bright. If they don’t, ask them “What if the furthest student was two block,
three blocks away? Would the colors be as bright?”)
 Now ask them to put their index finger from one hand horizontally at the feet of the closest
student and the index finger from the other hand horizontally at the feet of the farthest student.
Ask them: “Which appears to be lower on the ground?” (They should see that the closest
student appears to be lower)
 If there are buildings also along the street, have students use their thumb and index finger on
one hand to measure the closest student and then measure a one-story building that is closer to
the furthest student. Ask them, “Which appears to be bigger?” They should see that the closest
student appears to be bigger than the building that is closer to the further student.
 If there are buildings or any objects whose views are partially blocked by the closest student,
ask, “What part of that building (or tree or car or whatever) can you not see because of the
student closest to you?” After they answer, ask them, “Is that part of building really gone?”
(no, it is just an illusion of perspective)
Have all students return to the classroom and review what they have just seen. Tell them that
perspective is an illusion in real life as well as in art. Things that are further away appear to change
characteristics, even though we know they do not. We know that the building is bigger than the
student, but when placed in perspective, this changes. We know that the three students were all about
the same height, but when placed in perspective, this changes. We know that the three students all
have eyelashes, shoe laces, etc., but when placed in perspective, this changes. We know that all three
students were standing on a level sidewalk, but when placed in perspective, some looked higher.
Write the words “aerial perspective” on the board and ask:
 “What does the word “aerial” mean? What root word does it remind you of? (air)”
“As we placed students with more air space between them, what happened to the way
we saw them?” (things such as size, placement, detail, and color appeared to change)
 “Did these things really change? (no, it is an illusion)
 “How then would you define the term “aerial perspective”? (Aerial perspective is the
illusion of changed qualities in objects according to their distance from the viewer.)
On another part of the board write “qualities of aerial perspective”. Ask students:
 “What were the qualities that you saw change as objects were viewed from a distance?”
(students should be able to list (1) they appear smaller (2) they appear less detailed (3)
they appear duller in color (4) they appear to be placed higher on the page and (5) they
may be partially obscured or overlapped by other objects closer to them.
Ask students:
 Have any of you ever been in a car headed towards the mountains, looking out the
window at the scenery coming up? When you were still miles away, how did the
mountains look? (small, maybe blurry, and bluish-gray) As you got closer, did you
begin to see shapes of trees and maybe rocks appear? Did the colors become brighter
as you got nearer? Once you were actually in those mountains, did you then see
flowers growing along the road, trees filled with limbs and leaves of bright greens?
Why didn’t you see those things far away? (allow students time to share experiences
and really explore this concept)
 Ask if students can think of other examples of how distance caused objects to appear
changed. (Students might share how the people in the bleachers on the other side of
the football field look smaller, etc. Other examples could be a railroad track, a highway,
etc. With each example, have students explain why. “How does that scene serve as an
example of the five qualities of aerial perspective?”)
Lesson Procedures:
Show students the power-point on Impressionism. Be sure and emphasize the following points:
 Impressionism grew out of studies in science during the mid 1800’s about light waves
and how color is reflected as light waves.
 Impressionist art is characterized by short brush strokes of individual color to simulate
individual light waves as they reflect off of the air and the objects placed within the air.
 Impressionism began in France and was practiced outdoors (plein air).
 Important impressionist artists included Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and Edgar
 Impressionist landscapes used not only a different style of painting, but also practiced
aerial perspective.
Show the demonstration video, “Oil Pastel Impressionist Landscapes”.
2. Give students the handout on “Crosshatching Colors” and oil pastels (take the black pastels out
of all boxes). Have students practice crosshatching individual colors as directed on the page.
Ensure them that even though all of these individual strokes of color may look messy up close,
the human eye will blend them when viewed from a distance. ( I always told my students about
the time I visited an art gallery and as I passed a particular painting, I thought to myself that it
was just a mess of color and brush strokes and that it was very difficult to even tell what the
picture was of. As I walked around the room, I happened to look back across the room at the
same painting and was surprised to see a beautiful painting of horses standing in a stable.) This
is important because students often want their art to be “pretty” and they will want to just paint
an object “brown” instead of mixing strokes of blue and orange which will appear brown when
viewed through air at a distance. Instead of using just green, students should be encouraged to
crosshatch blue and yellow in different degrees. This is not to say that green, brown or red
cannot be used, but encourage students to use individual strokes of different colors that will
appear to be another color from a distance. This is what impressionist art is all about!
3. Explain to students that because of the limitations of class time and transportation, they will
work from photographs instead of “plein air”. Have them choose one of the photographs taken
from the geography lesson, “Mesas to Tall Grass Prairies” to use for their landscape. (Although
the geography lesson included many beautiful photographs, these were chosen because they
contained a foreground, middle ground and background to emphasis the aerial perspective. If
students want to use their own photographs, it is important that these three perspective planes
be clearly identifiable.)
4. When students have their photograph chosen, ask them to think back to the sidewalk
experience. Ask them:
 What appears to be closest to you in the picture? (Tell them that this is called the
 What appears about halfway to the horizon? (Tell them that this is called the middle
 What appears to be the furthest away? (Tell them that this is referred to as the
 How do you see the same qualities of aerial perspective in your photograph that we saw
out on the sidewalk?
Tell them that whenever they want to do a landscape, by including all three planes, the picture
will appear to have more depth. (This is important for them to know so that they can continue
to practice new skills on their own time.)
5. Give students an 8 x 10 sheet of heavy drawing paper. Students are to sketch VERY LIGHTLY in
pencil just the basic shapes of main objects. Refer back to the video. Check to be sure that they
have used size, placement, and overlapping in their sketch.
Encourage them to start at the top of the picture with the sky so that their hand will not smear
what they have already completed.
Give students ample time to complete their landscape. Crosshatching in the Impressionist style takes
time. Encourage students to resist the urge to just color objects all one color. This is NOT a color book
lesson! By keeping pictures rather small (8 x 10) they will be more likely to finish.
Mat student work and put on exhibit with an appropriate title. Invite outside
community and school members to view.
Students will self and peer review their oil pastel landscapes based on the rubric
Students can plan and set up an exhibit. They can write articles for the local newspaper
explaining why and how they did their work. They could describe some of the works on exhibit as
examples of Impressionism and/or of aerial perspective. If this is done, the PASS skills 2.5 and 1.4 can
be encompassed.
Highly Qualified Extension for Professional Development Points (See HQ Section of this lesson for
more information):
Content Standards
 1.2 – Students will identify visual principle of design art term of color and space
(background, middle ground, foreground, aerial perspective).
 2.1 – Students will analyze common characteristics of works of art and identify
 3.1 – Students will create a original two dimensional works of art from imagination
using technology media design software.
 4.2 – Students will demonstrate respect for their work and the work of others through
self and peer evaluation.
 4.3 – Students will demonstrate thoughtfulness and care in completion of artwork.
Handout #1 Elements and Principles of Art
The elements and principles of art work together to create art that is expresses the artistic message. It
is the interaction between the elements and principles that make a work of art worthy.
Line: in an element of art which refers to a continuous mark made on some surface by a moving point.
It may be two dimensional, like a pencil mark on a paper or it may be three dimensional (wire) or
implied (the edge of a shape or form). Line is expressive in its thickness, direction, and medium.
Shape: is an enclosed space defined by other elements of art. Shapes may take on the appearance of 2
or 3 dimensional objects. Shapes can be geometric (circle, square, triangle, etc) or organic (blob).
Space: refers to the distance or area between, around, above or within things. It is often thought of as
the empty or negative part.
Color: is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue is the name of the color such as yellow, blue,
green. (2) intensity is the brightness or dullness of a color made by adding another color to it. (3) value
is the lightness of darkness of a color made by adding black or white to the color.
Texture: refers to the surface quality or “feel” of an object, such as roughness, smoothness, or softness.
Actual texture can be felt while simulated or visual textures are implied by the way the artist renders
areas of a picture.
Value: Is the lightness or darkness added to shapes to express volume. It is commonly referred to as
“shading” in drawing or painting.
Emphasis: refers to developing points of interest to pull the viewer’s eye to important parts of the art.
Balance: is a sense of stability or equality in the art. Balance can be created by repeating shapes, colors,
or textures to give a feeling of equal weight.
Unity: is a achieved in art by using similar elements throughout the work. This principle is also often
referred to as repetition because it is achieved by repeated elements.
Contrast/Variety: refers to the use of different elements within the art. Contrast adds interest to the