The idea of drawing in perspective intimidates many beginning artists because it may seem to be more related to
mathematics than art.
But the truth is that though perspective takes some work to get right, it’s something that any artist can do
The first step to learning how to
draw objects in perspective is to truly understand what perspective is.
It’s sometimes hard to understand what perspective is because our eyes and brains deal with it automatically in
a way that makes us not think twice about it. But imagine yourself in an art gallery looking down a long hallway at
a painting on the wall.
Head on, the painting will appear perfectly rectangular. But if you lay flat on the floor and your viewing angle
changes, the painting’s shape will turn trapezoidal. You hardly notice this change, because your mind is telling
you the painting is rectangular in any case, but if you wanted to represent this viewpoint on a canvas, you would
need to note this change in shape.
Artists use perspective to give their works the illusion of distance and depth. Without it, the work would not
be convincing, as even a viewer with no knowledge of what perspective is would realize something isn’t right with
When you stand at the base of a very tall building and look up, the building appears to get smaller and converge
at the top. When standing on railroad tracks looking down them, the tracks disappear into a single point in the
distance. This is perspective, and this must be conveyed in your artwork.
There are many types of linear perspective, but those new to perspective usually start with one-point and
One-point perspective can be understood most easily of all the perspectives and is the simplest method for
making objects in a drawing or painting appear three-dimensional. The first important concept to understand in
perspective is the idea of a vanishing point, and vanishing lines. The vanishing point is the point on the horizon
on which all parallel lines seem to diminish towards.
The simplest way to understand this is to imagine you’re on those railroad tracks again. Both sides of the
tracks seem to end in a single distant point, making the tracks create a triangular shape instead of running
parallel to each other. Everything is diminishing toward this single point, hence why it is called one-point
Two-point perspective is commonly used for buildings. Imagine you’re looking at a building on the corner of a
street. You can see two sides of the building receding into two distant points, one down each street on which the
building sits on. Thus, there are two vanishing points on the horizon, and the building on each of these lines will
diminish in size toward each of those points.
Perspective is a little hard to wrap your mind around when you’re just reading about it, so the best idea is to
take a pencil and sketchbook outside and try to sketch building and railroad tracks (if there are any nearby) while
thinking about vanishing points.
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