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August 2006

August 2006; Water



  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Leveling with Labels
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Conventions Pt 2: The Art Show
  • EMG News:
    August 2006; Water
  • Behind the Art:
    One-Point Perspective
  • Myths and Symbols:
    Heraldry, Pt 4: Charges


  • The Basics of Backing Up
  • Painting in the Rain


  • Fiction: Invictus
  • Poem: To Tread Water
  • Fiction: Bubba's First Snow


  • : Re-cycle
  • Movie: Lady in the Water
  • Movie: Superman Returns
  • Product: Diane Arbus: Revelations

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  • One-Point Perspective
    Behind the Art
    by Annie Rodrigue

    I've given myself quite a challenge this month: I decided to cover perspective. Perspective isn't that difficult to understand, mind you, but it's difficult to actually make it work on paper. Somehow, even though you use a ruler and make sure you follow all the steps, it doesn't always work out the way we want it to. So this month we will cover some basic rules of perspective and we'll learn the simplest type of perspective: one-point perspective.

    What is Perspective?

    I want to take the time to explain what perspective is exactly, because the very first time I was introduced to perspective, I had absolutely no clue what it was! Perspective is the illusion of depth. We saw in previous columns that this could be achieved with colors, but it can also be achieved with lines. Lots of lines!

    The keyword here is illusion: you are faking a 3-dimensional space on a 2-dimensional space (your paper or canvas).

    The Horizon

    The horizon is one of the most important tools you will need to create perspective. What's the horizon? We could say that it's that limit where the sky and ground reach, but that wouldn't be completely true. It's actually an invisible loop around you, and this loop is always at eye level.

    It's essential to understand that the horizon is determined by your physical position. So when you are drawing a background with a particular horizon, you are creating the illusion of a physical position to your viewer.

    In our diagram, we have 3 different horizon lines. So in #1, we would probably be positioned high so that we see more grass than sky. #2 could be considered a normal horizon where someone would be standing up straight, and #3 would mean we are actually lying on the grass looking the sky!

    The Vanishing Point

    The vanishing point is yet another essential tool to create perspective. You will always find it somewhere on the horizon line. Now, what is exactly a vanishing point, you might ask? It is the point where all parallel lines converge on your drawing.

    Yes, I hear you all telling me that parallel lines cannot converge! That is certainly true! But they can and they must in your drawing, because this is what will create perspective!

    See how all these lines create a feeling of depth just because they are reaching the same vanishing point?

    One-Point Perspective

    Like I mentioned earlier, one-point perspective is the simplest perspective you can do. You only need one vanishing point to create it. A lot of people use it because it's the easiest one, but others will feel that this kind of perspective is too stiff and doesn't give a lot of liberties. That's also true. With 2-and 3-point perspective, you will get to do some very interesting angles of views. But since we are here to start with the basics, let's stick to one!

    Now, if we were to start our perspective, where would we put our vanishing point? First, you'd have to establish where the horizon is; once that is done, you can put the vanishing point anywhere on the line. Keep in mind though that a vanishing point very close to the border of your sheet might cause the perspective to be deformed. For one-point perspective, never put your vanishing point outside of your sheet. (Because yes, you can put the vanishing point outside when you are dealing with 2- and 3-point perspective!)

    We will try to draw something very easy to start: a chair! Let's see how we'd do it!

    If I was to use perspective for my chair, I'd use the vanishing point as a reference for all diagonal lines. For all the other lines, they should be perfectly vertical or horizontal. You can use a ruler or try to do these lines freehand (though I strongly suggest the ruler if this is your first time).

    So that means that with one point perspective, all the lines that represent depth should be done using the vanishing point, all horizontal lines should be a 180 degrees, and all vertical lines should be at 90 degrees!

    What if I wanted to draw a room? Same thing! I like to draw the back wall first to help me out.

    Then I would trace the lines for my sides wall.

    You can remove the horizon and the guidelines for the walls when you are done. As long as you have the vanishing point present in your drawing, you know where the horizon is. And now we have a room ready to receive furniture.

    I made quick sketch of a room with some furniture, windows, and a carpet. Keep in mind that when you add items in a room or any other kind of background, they can be reduced to basic geometrical shapes to help you get the right perspective. The couch, for example, could have been a big cubic shape to start with. Once you block the basic shape, you can traces more lines from the vanishing point for details (like the cushions).

    Giving an Feeling of Space

    For me, this is the hardest part, because no matter how much we understand about perspective, if we don't have that feel for space, we only have half of the job done. Placing furniture, elements, frames, plants, and people in a background is never easy. There isn't really a trick either. The best advice I can give is to do a lot of observation. Look into your own house, go outside, and do a lot of life drawings. See how elements interact with each other and try to put it in your work.


    Here are two nice tricks when doing some perspective, if you want to find the middle of a square to separate it in two equal parts. Traces diagonals from corner to corner. The X is the middle of the square or rectangle. On step 3, you see that you can continue further to get polls at equal distance.


    Remember that if you want to do a correct perspective, you'll need to first mark your horizon and your vanishing point. Perspective takes a lot of practice. Make sure you do a lot of observation around you.

    I've been keeping an eye on perspective books and so far, only one seems complete: Perspective for Comic Book Artists by David Chelsea. Don't let the silly Mugg charater fool you; this book's got to be the best vulgarization of perspective available to artists! I highly recommend it!

    What's Next?

    I'm thinking of covering inking with pens and nibs next month. I'll try to cover everything about their use and care!

    Annie Rodrigue

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