Perspective drawing can seem daunting when first introduced in art curriculums or on a self-learning journey. There are so many deceptively simple concepts to wrap your head around (like eye-level and vanishing points) that throw off even the most confident students.
However, there’s no getting around this subject if you have artistic aspirations because perspective is the final piece of the proverbial puzzle concerning realism in art. Using this technique, you can breathe life into your artwork by giving it the illusion of having three dimensions – length, height, and depth.
So, what is perspective in art?
Perspective is an art technique used to create the illusion of depth on a 2D (flat) plane. It gives artwork form and can be applied to all art subjects, whether in still life, landscape, portrait, figure drawing, etc.
Origins of the Technique
As it’s also referred to, linear perspective originated during the 15th century. In fact, two people are credited with its invention: the Renaissance artist Leon Battista Alberti and Filippo Brunelleschi, who was an architect of that era.
Alberti theorized the technique in a book he wrote titled “On Painting,” which was published in 1435. To this day, modern works of art apply the one vanishing point system described in the book.
How Perspective Works – A High-Level View
When drawing in perspective, an artist uses straight lines to plot out where subjects in a composition should go.
A straight horizontal line across the paper represents the viewer’s eye level (discussed in more detail below), and a small dot is placed on this line to represent the farthest point the viewer can see. All other lines emit from and recede toward this tiny dot, and the artist uses them to position things on the page.
Perspective Drawing Concepts
Every drawing that uses the perspective drawing technique applies all of the concepts discussed below. In order of use, they are:
Also called the eye level, the horizon line is fundamental to perspective drawing. It’s the first mark an artist makes on the page. You establish the horizon line by drawing a straight horizontal line across the page, which you’ll erase when the artwork is complete.
The purpose of the horizon line is twofold: first, it depicts the viewer’s point of view. Using the term “eye level” is more appropriate here because drawing the horizon line low on the page establishes that the viewer is looking up at the scene from below. The viewer has a low eye level. The opposite is the case when the horizon line is drawn high.
The second purpose served by the horizon line is as a guide for placing the vanishing point.
In perspective, all lines converge to a single point on the page called the vanishing point. It represents the farthest point a viewer can see because things “vanish” at this point. For example, look outside your window: how far can you see? The point at which you can’t see anything is your vanishing point.
You can place the vanishing point anywhere on the horizon line. So depending on the perspective you’re using, there may be one or more vanishing points on your horizon line.
In art, you create the illusion of space by drawing objects larger and smaller on a page to represent how close to or far away they are from the viewer. In perspective, converging lines are essential for conveying the illusion of depth because they help plot your objects on the page.
As mentioned above, perspective lines converge to the vanishing point. Therefore, the closer you draw an object to the vanishing point using the converging lines to plot it, the smaller you should depict it.
See also: How to Draw Roses
Types of Perspective
You’ll usually come across three types of perspective drawings. They’re as follows:
As the name suggests, one-point-perspective uses only one vanishing point with all lines converging to that single point. Depending on where you place the point on the horizon line, you can depict the viewpoint of someone looking straight on at an object – ditto for things to their right or left.
It can be confusing at first because placing the vanishing point on the left depicts an object to the viewer’s right and vice versa.
Two-point-perspective drawing employs two vanishing points placed on either side of the horizon line. It’s usually used when you want to depict two sides or the ¾ view of an object such as a house.
The two vanishing points should be adequately spaced apart to get it right. For example, when drawing the ¾ view of a cube, you risk a distorted diamond shape if the two vanishing points are spaced too closely together.
Advanced artists use three-point perspective drawing to complex viewpoints like buildings and a fisheye lens view of a scene. You’ll have to master one and two-point-perspective before moving to three-point-perspective, as this type employs a lot of converging lines.
See also: How to Draw a Leaf
How Long Does It Take to Master Perspective Drawing?
As the cliche goes, you need at least 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. So, expect to practice constantly before you see significant improvements in your perspective drawing technique.
Moreover, only move on to two-point-perspective after you’re comfortable with and thoroughly understand one-point-perspective. Using the technique to render all manner of subjects, be they figures, animals, buildings, or landscapes, and really leaving your comfort zone will accelerate your growth.
Perspective drawing is a technique applied to artwork to give it the feeling of having 3D form and depth. It uses straight lines to plot things out on a 2D plane, with these lines converging to a single point (one-point-perspective) or multiple points (two and three-point-perspective) on a horizon line.
Applying perspective concepts will add realism and depth to your art, making this technique essential learning for aspiring artists.