You may only be drawing for a short while before the concept of perspective looms large.
I found that I got quickly frustrated at not understanding and, therefore, not being able to convey a sense of depth, shape and context in my drawings. They always seemed to look, well, a little flat! I’m hopefully going to dispel any uneasiness when it comes to learning how to draw perspective.
Betty Edwards in the cult classic “Drawing on the Right Hand Side of the Brain” advocates that perspective is one of the five key components necessary in drawing. She also highlights the relatable following;
“You, too, will learn to “draw in perspective” a goal, I’m sorry to say, that has become the Waterloo of many art student and often carries a huge charge of dread that is quite unnecessary. Hearing the phrase “the science of perspective,” with its aura of lengthy, tedious, and boring lessons, can wilt the ambition of even a determined drawing student.”
I’m hoping any dread you may be feeling at mastering how to draw perspective will be dissipated somewhat by the end of this article.
Perspective can support you create new dimensions to your drawings, create more realism and build your story on a page. And, even if you only draw objects, perspective applies to all aspects of drawing from subject matter right through to how you choose to use colour to emphasise depth and shape.
Learning perspective is all about the rule of “three”. I tend to use up to three types of linear perspective. These are simply known as one, two and three point perspective. In turn they are dominated by three types of line. The horizon, vanishing points and vanishing lines. If you can master an understanding of these you will master the universe on the pages of your sketchbook.
At first you may start needing to put invisible learning lines onto your page which you can rub out once you are happy with your drawing, but in time you will find your eye will take the lead and learn the language to use on the page. Literally and figuratively!
Interestingly, however, plenty of artists choose not to really engage with perspective. Gaining an understanding, however, of how to use it can support you build whichever type of sketching style you want to use.
Over the course of this post I am going to share how I have found myself using it in my sketchbook pages.
Let’s start with one point perspective and move through the different perspectives we can use to help us master how to draw perspective!
One Point Perspective
Let’s start our perspective journey with one point perspective.
One point perspective is defined as;
“A drawing has one-point perspective when it contains only one vanishing point on the horizon line. This type of perspective is typically used for images of roads, railway tracks, hallways, or buildings viewed so that the front is directly facing the viewer. Any objects that are made up of lines either directly parallel with the viewer’s line of sight or directly perpendicular (the railroad ties/sleepers) can be represented with one-point perspective. These parallel lines converge at the vanishing point.” Wikipedia
One point perspective highlights how the further away you get, the smaller the object becomes, eventually meeting at a single “vanishing point” on a horizon line. This is the first type of perspective method that starts to suggest a three dimensional approach to your drawing.
This type of perspective is the foundation of my drawing practise and the one I use the most. There are a few additional things to mention about this type of perspective.
- Notice what you are looking at when you look at a picture head on. The objects or images facing me are true to their shape. Sides are parallel to the paper edge. You can essentially transcribe what you see in simple shapes and lines.
- Those objects and / or images will always be true to their shape because they sit on a horizon line. i.e the line on eye level.
- Identify the point to which your eye naturally moves. This is known as the “vanishing point,” located on the horizon line.
- All the objects or scenes that move away from this line all move towards this vanishing point.
I run through this visually in the video accompanying this blog post and talk you through how you can get started simply. It is worth you having a go practising picking out how you would identify one point perspective in a magazine, walk or photograph and then basically transcribing it onto paper. I also quickly show you how you can use this technique to sketch some day to day objects that you may never have thought to use in your own practise.
This is the first step in how to draw perspective.