How perspective drawing can make you a better artist

I’ve been talking about drawing in perspective this week, but you might be wondering what, exactly, perspective is…

The photo above is a good, simple example. In real life, we know that those white lines of the road are “parallel” to each other, right?

(Quick geometry reminder: parallel lines are lines that never touch each other, no matter how far they go.)

So we know that those white lines are never going to touch each other…

… yet, in the photo, it looks like they’re making an upside-down V, converging at some point in the distance!

That’s because the photo, and the screen of whatever device you’re reading this on, are flat. They’re two dimensional. There’s length and width, but no depth.

When we stand on that road, however, we’re standing in a three dimensional world. We see and experience length, width, AND depth.

So, to translate a scene from real life (3-D) to a flat surface (2-D), we lose a dimension, and we have to add some distortion to our lines to make them appear realistic.

This is the essence of perspective drawing. You’re drawing in a way that makes your sketch appear realistic, as it would in “real life.”

The cool thing is that just a slight change in the way you position the lines on your page can totally change the feel of the composition.

Here’s the same type of scene as the photo above:

But you can see something’s different, right?

In the photo (scroll up for a reminder), it felt like we were standing in the middle of the road, even if the shadow of the photographer wasn’t there as a clue.

But in my sketch, it feels like we’re on the right side of road, perched like a hawk on top of a light pole.

All that’s changed is the position of the horizon (in the photo, it’s about halfway down from the top of the page, and in the sketch, it’s about 1/3 of the way down), and the placement of the road lines.

Pretty cool, right?

Understanding how perspective works will give you a ton of confidence when it comes to sketching and painting your own unique scenes.

It can help you create a certain mood (dramatic? tranquil?) and it can help the viewers of your artwork better understand what you’re trying to convey.

Perspective also gives you another lever to pull (in addition to color palette, subject matter, brushstrokes, etc.) for developing your own artistic style.

If you don’t have a solid grasp of (1) horizon lines, (2) vanishing points, (3) one-point perspective, and (4) two-point perspective, you should definitely check out my Intro to Landscape Perspectives class!

The Intro class (or a solid grasp of the four topics I just mentioned) is a prerequisite for my new intermediate-level sketching class that will open for earlybird enrollment next week!

Brenda H. just left me this nice comment on my Intro class:

“This is the best instruction on perspective I have seen. Very clear, relaxed presentation. I knew that objects get smaller in the distance, but that rule of thumb is very helpful along with the rest of the class! Thank you!”

Hope you can join me to level up your sketching and perspective skills!

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