Perspective drawing is a technique used to represent three-dimensional images on a two dimensional picture plane. When we want to draw a real object in a paper we try to represent the depth in a flat surface. This surface has only two dimensions, while the object has three dimensions. How can we do it? The answer is: using perspective.
“Perspective is to painting what the bridle is to a horse, the rudder to a ship... There are three aspects to perspective. The first has to do with how the size of objects seem to diminish according to distance; the second, the manner in which colours change the farther away they are from the eye; the third defines how objects ought to be finished less carefully the farther away they are” (Leonardo da Vinci).
Look at the image and verify Leonardo’s observations:
- Do all the objects seem to diminish according their distance to the viewer?
- Do the colours change the farther they are from the viewer’s eye?
- Do the objects less accurate the farther they are?
Look at picture 2. It shows the linear perspective of the image above. Pay attention at the next points:
- All the lines join in a point called over the horizon line. This point is called vanishing point.
- Shapes appear smaller the farther they are.
- The horizon line appears at the same height that our eye-level.
Picture 2Perspective was developed in the 15th Century by architects. For 500 years, perspective remained one of the basic principles of Western art, until it was challenged by the ideas of the Cubists (for example Picasso) at the start of the 20th Century.Knowing and understanding perspective is an essential tool to help anyone improve their drawing technique.
There are two main elements in perspective drawing:
- Linear perspective: organizes shapes in space
- Aerial perspective: atmospheric effects on tones and colours.
We are going to practise linear perspective.
THE HORIZON AND THE EYE LEVEL
The horizon and the eye level are the axis around which a perspective drawing is constructed.
When we are outdoors, we use the horizon as a point of reference to judge the scale and distance of objects in relation to us.
In perspective drawing, the horizon has to be the viewer’s eye-level.
Look at the next pictures to explore the value of horizon and eye level.
In picture 3, note how all four figures share the same eye level (it’s the same than the horizon line). This suggests that they are all the same height and are standing on the same plane (on the floor). It also suggests that the figures are the same height as any viewer of the picture. As a result, the organisation of scale and distance in the drawing makes good visual sense.
In picture 4, although the figures are still the same size than in picture 1, their eye levels don’t have any relationship to the eye level of the picture. As a result, the scale of the figures is totally confused.
This demonstrates the importance of the horizon/eye level to the organisations of scale and distance in a perspective drawing. It also illustrates the meaning of Leonardo’s words “Perspective is to painting what the bridle is to the horse, the rudder to a ship”.
ONE POINT PERSPECTIVE
One point perspective uses a single vanishing point to draw an object. It is the simplest form of perspective drawing, and is the perspective we are going to work with.
Look at the next picture:
One point perspective has been used to draw a box.
Vanishing points are dots on the eye-level where parallel lines seem to converge and disappear. One point perspective has only one vanishing point. You can see clearly the vanishing point in picture 2.