Chinese Landscape Paintings


  • Foreground
  • Middle-ground
  • Background
  • Aerial Perspective/Atmospheric Perspective
  • Vine charcoal
  • Compressed charcoal

For our next project we will use charcoal to create  our own versions of Chinese landscape paintings.  Here is an example of a traditional Chinese landscape painting:


You can see that the artist has shown a foreground (the objects that are closest to us) a clear background (objects that are far away from us) and middle-ground (objects that are in between foreground and background).  There are a few ways to distinguish between foreground, middle-ground, and background.

First, objects in the foreground will have lots of detail while objects in the middle-ground will have less detail and objects in the background will have little to no detail.

Second, objects in the foreground appear larger than objects in the middle-ground and objects in the middle-ground appear larger than objects in the background.

Third, as objects move farther away from us in space they appear lighter or hazier.  This is because if you are looking at something from far away enough of the Earth’s atmosphere gets in the way to change the colors you see.  If you are on top of a mountain looking over the hills, you will see them begin to look bluer the farther away they are from you.  Here is a picture taken from the top of Mt. Goodnow in the Adirondack State Park in New York.  Here you can clearly see what artists call Aerial Perspective or Atmospheric Perspective:


You will use charcoal to draw a landscape of your choice. Keep in mind that Vine charcoal naturally makes a lighter mark than Compressed charcoal.  Think about this when you are deciding how light or dark to make an object.  Would you be better off using vine or compressed charcoal for objects in the foreground? What about objects in the background?


  • Your drawing must have a foreground, middle-ground, and background
  • Your drawing must utilize atmospheric/aerial perspective to show distance
  • You must use both vine and compressed charcoal to create a finished and neat composition

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