Skip to main content

Tutorial: The Art of Perspective Drawing

Backstreet by Edward Evans


Drawing in proper perspective is one the biggest problems that beginning drawing students have to overcome. It is one of the most important issues for an artist to master in order for his or her work to have the look and feel of authenticity. If a drawing's perspective is incorrect, the overall work looks abnormal. An exception to this would be surrealistic and abstract works.

This post will attempt to explain issues of perspective in drawing. I will impart several tips and pointers to help the understanding of perspective as it applies to drawing, and I will attempt to provide a basis for the beginner to start from so he or she has a practical starting point from which to tackle and master perspective drawing.

To define perspective drawing, it is the systematic method of rendering objects and subjects represented in the artwork relative to their closeness or distance from one another from the perspective of the viewer. Simply, learning to draw in perspective gives your work a three-dimensional reality.

City Street Perspective

To illustrate, imagine you are standing in the middle of a street looking straight down the thoroughfare as far as you can see. All the buildings, houses, trees, electrical utility poles, cars and people all gradually grow smaller as they retreat in the distance to the point where you cannot see any further. This point is called the vanishing point, and it is located on the horizon line, which is the distant point beyond which that you can see. When you look out from a beach at the expanse of the sea, the horizon line is where the sea meets the sky--it forms a horizontal line (horizon line) from the left to the right of your sight, or perspective. This known as one-point perspective. In future posts, we will deal two-point and three-point perspective.

If this all sounds confusing, don't worry! I will provide ample illustrations to facilitate understanding of this.

Three terms to be remembered:

1. Horizon line;
2. Vanishing point; and,
3. Eye level.

Many people picking up the pencil for the first time will arrive with some confusion; when rendering railroad tracks in a drawing, logic will tell them to draw two parallel lines, like this (or similar):

Wrong Perspective

Railroad tracks run parallel to one another, but when you stand between them and with your eyes follow their direction to the point where you cannot, the tracks seem to gradually converge.

When learning perspective as it relates to drawing, it is important to learn to draw what you see, not what you know. What I mean to say by this, is that we know that railroad tracks are equidistantly parallel to one another. What we need to learn when drawing is how it appears from the artist's (or more generally, the viewer's) perspective, that is, what we see. When you go outside, look down the sidewalk. You know that the sidewalk is pretty much the same width at the point of where you are standing as it is 50 or 100 feet down. But when you look that far down, you see that the sidewalk gradually tapers as it goes farther into the distance. That is what is meant by drawing what you see, not what you know.

Also note that the farther the objects are in the distance, as in the sketch below (tracks, hills, etcetera) the lighter in tone and fuzzier in detail they become.

Railroad Tracks Proper Perspective

In the sketch above, take note of the tracks and how they gradually recede into the distance of the surrounding hills: the point where the tracks disappear from sight is called the vanishing point (marked with an 'x'). The hills which run from the left to right of the illustration in the distance is the horizon line. In this example sketch, the horizon is also the eye level, but this arrangement would not be applied to all drawings; there many differing perspectives in any given subject the artist wishes to render. The eye level (or standing view) is one of the most common points of view, but there is also the bird's eye view (perspective from above) and the worm's eye view (view from low to the ground), which are only two of many examples.


Bird's Eye View

The above sketch is an example of the "bird's eye" perspective. In this instance, the body of the man tapers as the view goes from his head, to chest, and finally to legs and feet. This is another drawing technique called foreshortening. We will cover this in a future post.


Worm's Eye View

This sketch takes the perspective from the ground level, called the worm's eye view. Note that the man's body tapers as it goes upward; the foreshortening technique plays a role in this instance as well.

In closing, I must add that perspective is such a major part of drawing that it is certain that I will be covering this issue in future posts. Let this be an introductory to the basic principles; in the next few weeks and months we will indeed go over drawing perspective in greater detail.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Tutorial: How to Draw a Face

This tutorial is quite a bit more advanced, and may not be suitable for a beginner to undertake. I am posting it for the more experienced; that is, the intermediate artist who has already acquired a knowledgeable and working background in the basics of composition, perspective, and the techniques of various pencil strokes and shading.

Of course, as I am just beginning this tutorial web site and there are not many posts, I plan to have a well-rounded set of tutorials for everyone, beginner and advance alike.

I would suggest that a beginner doesn't start out with learning how to draw a face or portrait, as it could lead to disappointment and serve to discourage further interest in learning how to draw if you see your attempt of this project as a failure. Learning to draw a face is extremely advanced, and definitely not for the person just picking up the pencil for the first time!

With all that said, I still stand by my previous statement that anyone can learn to draw, with enough…

Tutorial: How to Draw a Nude in Charcoal

Greetings!

Today, we'll be drawing a nude using charcoal, although there will be some graphite used in this drawing as well. This will be a short tutorial; what we are trying to achieve is a quick sketch. This post will give you practice with shading as well. Charcoal is good to use, because you can lay in a lot very quickly.

The most difficult portion of this tutorial will be the line drawing of the nude figure. This is because of the difficulty of getting the proportions of the form correctly.

If you are having trouble getting the line drawing to your satisfaction, may I suggest that you print the Step One line drawing on your drawing paper using your computer's printer. Make sure you print only a light copy, and not too dark. If necessary, set your printer to print lighter than necessary. Be sure to use some drawing paper with some texture, and not just a sheet of printing paper, as we will be using charcoal, and this media demands some quality paper with "tooth"…

Tutorial: How To Draw a Human Mouth

In the next tutorial, we will draw a female mouth from the frontal perspective. This viewpoint is the simplest to draw.

We will be using the range of pencils: HB, 2B, 4B and 6B for this exercise.

Remember to sketch lightly (use gentle pressure with the pencil) when laying out the preliminary sketch. You can use a 2B pencil for the first step, as it dark enough to make lines, but not hard enough to indent the paper, which creates a problem when you add shading and final details later.


STEP 1 


In this step, sketch the basic outline using a 2B pencil. The area should be around three inches from the left  to right sides of the mouth, and two inches from the top to bottom. Use a ruler to get the proper measurements, but this size is suggested only. You can draw the mouth bigger than this, but try to keep at or above these measurements, because in later steps we will need a sufficient area to work in to add details and final shading.

On thing to remember: if you are just starting out and l…