My art journey has definitely been a long, winding road. It’s led me to places I never imagined I’d go. It’s been interesting, and sometimes it’s been fun. Most of all, it’s been challenging, especially when the concept of perspective comes up.
I don’t do perspective, at least, I don’t do it well. I’ve improved a little since I first began learning to draw, but it doesn’t come easily.
And so it was I grimaced at the next lesson in Arnold Fletcher’s book on step-by-step oil painting. In preparation for landscape painting — which assignment I’m looking forward to — I must first make my way through a chapter titled Simple Perspective.
Simple? Maybe for others; not for me.
I did have to laugh just a bit at Fletcher’s forthright statement that it’s always women who seem to have problems with perspective. I should mention, of course, that this book was first published in 1965, so forgive him, please, for a bit of a sexist attitude.
Of course, I’ve studied perspective many times over the last few years. I’ve read entire books about perspective, and I understand it — in theory. For the most part, at least. I know the essential rules:
- The horizon represents eye level
- Objects or lines above our eye level go down to the horizon
- Objects or lines below our eye level go up to the horizon
- Things that are upright remain upright as they recede toward the horizon
I dutifully followed along with Fletcher’s illustrations on simple perspective. Yes, Mr. Fletcher. Been there. Done that. I’m not good at it, I know, but I can take paper, pencil, and ruler and note the vanishing point. Yes, sir. I can do it.
And I did.
But then he had to get fancy. Roads don’t always go straight, he pointed out. So how about we draw a road that makes a turn — or two.
Are you kidding? No, that was part of the chapter, so I grabbed paper, pencil, and ruler and tried several times to understand all the principles involved. I’ll admit it was confusing, and I’ll admit, too, that my drawings weren’t very good, but I was able to get through the chapter.
There were no instructions for painting in the chapter. The exercises were all with pencil and paper, all designed to help aspiring art students — especially women, I suppose — get a grip on the whole idea of perspective.
I decided, though, to go ahead and attempt to paint a road that makes a couple of turns. So, I grabbed a canvas, quickly put in the horizon, then did my best to draw the road.
I painted the sky, painted a distant tree line, painted a grassy field. I painted in the road, then just because I could, I added a tree.
Like my other practice paintings from Arnold Fletcher’s instructional book, this isn’t meant to be a work of art. It’s badly composed, hurriedly done, and I’m not sure I really got the perspective quite right.
For me, though, it was a bit symbolic, a representation of the long and winding road I’ve been following over these last few years. I still have no idea where it will lead and I may never master perspective — simple or otherwise. But wherever I’m going, I’m on my way.