Acrylic Critique: "Acadia National Park, Maine, USA"

Acadia National Park, Maine, USA
by Jason Pritchard, 2006, acrylic, 13 1/2 x 10. 

This week, Colin J. Callahan looks at an acrylic painting from one of our readers and talks about the importance "atmospheric perspective."

Coastal scenes are quite challenging. For this work I suggest you look at how the values (light and dark) change from the foreground to the distance. Make sure you are lightening up/turning cool as you move into the distance. This is known as atmospheric perspective and is very important, particularly in ocean scenes because there is so much moisture in the air. With the principles of atmospheric perspective in mind, the rocks on the distant ledge must be lighter and cooler (more bluish) than the rocks in the foreground. The same holds for the trees. The dark pines cannot be uniformly dark but must also lighten up as they move farther into the background. A small amount of white and a bit of blue in the paint will do the trick. In the meantime—even when not painting—try observing this tonal shift by noticing how much darker foreground darks are than similar darks in the distance. I have my students do this by making a hole with their hand (a small peep-hole diamond with both index fingers and thumbs) and then comparing the tonal change between close darks and darks that are far away.

About the Critic
Colin J. Callahan
teaches painting and art history at St. Paul's School, in Concord, New Hampshire, where he also runs the school's gallery. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, Massachusetts, and he studied painting at Centro Barbieri, in Rome, Italy. Callahan is represented by Anderson-Soule Gallery, in Concord, New Hampshire. To view the artist's work, visit

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About BrianRiley

Brian Riley is the managing editor for the American Artist family of titles (American Artist, Watercolor, Drawing & Workshop) and has been part of the AA team since 2003. He first became interested in art as a child, specifically drawing, but drifted away from the visual arts as he grew older, gravitating towards writing while in college. His position at AA has offered him the opportunity to reinvigorate his early passion and continue his education.