As someone who has created their own murals for clients, I often look for inspiration and guidance from respected peers. I was delighted therefore that renowned muralist Jeff Raum has agreed to give us a mini-tutorial on ‘Atmospheric Perspective’ despite his hectic schedule.
” When Jeff Raum’s kindergarten teacher wrote a note to his mom saying that he had talent and should be encouraged, he knew that he had found his calling. He won a national poster competition in first grade and three of his paintings were displayed at the Baltimore Museum of Art that same year. In eighth grade, he became the youngest person ever to win the National Plastercraft Competition.
Jeff’s long string of charmed art achievements came to an abrupt end when he was exposed to the college art arena. He was unhappy with how the professors looked down their noses at realism. He formed a professional fraternity, Alpha Gamma Tao and started student meetings to discuss what was needed for a satisfactory commercial design program. Jeff presented his findings to the dean and facility, and in his senior year, the new program was implemented. After he graduated with a B.F.A. in commercial design, the entire art faculty was fired.
In 1983, Jeff began his career as a medical illustrator for hospitals. He soon tired of creating images of diseased organs and moved to Manhattan to work as a scenic artist for 3-D animated TV commercials, eventually being promoted to art director. When creating art to sell product grew tiring as well, he moved on to Broadway, spending three years as a make-up designer for the productions of I’m Not Rappaport and Into The Woods.
Wanting to leave the frantic energy of New York behind, Jeff moved to Los Angeles. Unable to get into the scenic artists union, he began his own decorative painting business, Jeff Raum Studios. His clients include Gucci, the Las Vegas Hilton, the Luxor, and Macy’s.
In 1998, Jeff began his stencil line, Jeff Raum Stencils, after the overwhelming response of SALI members to an article in the Artistic Stenciler. Jan Dressler became familiar with Jeff’s work and recommended him to appear on “The Christopher Lowell Show” and Jeff went on to appear in eight episodes.
Jeff was a part-time instructor of Interior Design at Moorpark College for nine years. His work has been published in Better Homes and Gardens and Traditional Home magazines as well as an Italian book on stenciling. Jeff is featured in the book Mural Painting Secrets for Success by Gary Lord.”
How to create atmospheric perspective in a Tuscan Mural.
This demo is showing only the middle ground of the finished piece and as I paint, I always keep in mind where this is in relation to the viewer. I start at the top of the mural and work my way down for a couple of reasons – a) Keeps me from dripping on finished work and b) allows me to slowly change my palette as I go. In atmospheric perspective, objects are cooler, have less contrast, and the intensity, or chroma of the color is less as the objects recede. I try to keep my work sedate in the back and middle grounds so that I can “pull out all the stops” in the foreground and make it pop.
Step 1. Layout and Background
The background in atmospheric perspective should be very blue (or cool), so the distant hills are done in grey-blues and blue-greens. Very simply and quickly. To push them back more, I put a wash of my sky color over them. I pencil in the layout of the buildings next.
Step 2. Laying in the village
I lay in my village, always keeping in mind the light source and keeping the colors cool and low key. Just to get rid of all the white, I base in the ground, making the distant ground cooler and lighter.
Step 3. Adding detail
I Add detail to my buildings, but keeping it simple to imply detail. I’m painting for humans, not hawks! Then I add detail to the ground and lay out my rows of grape vines by painting the shadows they cast first.
Step 4 Enhancing detail
Now I block in the foliage, using a darker, but still cool, color around the village to make the light buildings pop a bit and help focus the viewer’s attention on the focal point. Using “ratty” brushes, I scumble in the distant trees and as I move forward darken the green. The foreground trees are based-in a darker, warmer shade of green
Step 5. Highlighting
Now I go in and add highlights to all the foliage, keeping it concentrated on the left side of the forms. In the foreground, I add a lighter highlight to create more contrast and make them pop more than the background trees. In creating the rows of grapevines, I have to keep in mind my perspective. They get larger as the come nearer and as the vine go up the hill, the view of them changes from looking down on them to seeing them from the side. Last thing is to add some occasional posts to support the vines.
Below are a few more examples of Jeff’s extraordinary work and more information can be found at: