Depth in Drawing

Today I’m sharing another quick landscape drawing, along with a few thoughts about one of the most basic principles in drawing — creating depth.


Obviously I didn’t spend a lot of time on this drawing, and don’t you love those crooked trees? I do. They definitely have character.

This quick sketch was taken from an illustration in William F. Powell’s Landscape Drawing book. The point of this drawing is to create an illusion of depth. Hopefully you can tell that some of these trees are closer than others, and hopefully you can even tell which ones they are!

The idea here is that by using more detail and more value, we can make an object appear closer to the viewer. In the same way, by eliminating detail and value, we can make objects appear to be receding into the background.

This is, of course, only one way in which we can create depth in drawings and paintings. In “Elements of Design Space” the Art Foundation website shows this and other methods, such as size, overlap, placement, and perspective — both atmospheric and linear.

Last year during Inktober, I practiced various depth techniques, such as “placement” in this fun ink drawing of “Twelve Trees”.

Inktober 24 - Tea Tree (2)

Of course, overlapping is probably the easiest way to show in a drawing that one thing is in front of or behind another. This principle is important for still life drawings, and can be easily practiced by using basic shapes.

As for size, I think that’s probably self-explanatory, and it is, of course, part of the principle of linear perspective. Larger objects appear closer to the viewer than smaller objects. Makes sense, right?

I know these ideas are familiar to everyone who has studied drawing. Even those of us who are largely self-taught have no doubt encountered these “in-depth drawing” ideas from time to time. Yet we shouldn’t dismiss these rules with an “Oh, I already know all of that!” attitude and a wave of our hand. It’s good to practice them, to remind ourselves of these drawing concepts, and to take time to practice them occasionally.

We don’t have to make elaborate drawings. We don’t need to spend hours on these methods. But the time we do spend will pay off with greater understanding, better application of these principles, and increased confidence in our drawing abilities.

Even taking a moment or two for a quick review can be helpful, and if you don’t want to do any drawing yourself, you can sit back and watch this quick video tutorial — The Illusion of Space — from Arte a Scuola.

Space — and all else in art — is, indeed, an illusion. Knowing how to create it is fundamental to successful drawing. It’s basic, yes, but it leads the way to greater depth and dimension in our art.



  1. coincidentally, I am working on landscape this week, too. Perhaps I should actually Blog about it! I am doing an online MOOC class where we are actually covering exactly the same material as you are in this post. I think your “Quick” sketches look detailed and effortless to me, who tends to scribble my tone. Looking forward to the sketch along this week, but I am just going to stick to graphite as that is what my aim is to simply practice drawing, not play with media. Hope to see you there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a coincidence! I was actually quite pleased with these quick sketches I made. It feels good to be at a point where sitting down and drawing is simple, fun, and almost easy for me. I never thought that would happen! I really enjoy drawing with graphite, so while it’s been fun to try a couple other things during “Gettin’ Sketchy”, I’d much rather stick with my drawing pencils. I didn’t try the monoprinting that Ashley demonstrated. Were you there for that session? I skipped it and watched the next morning. Looks like fun, but it also looks like it would be very messy! LOL


    1. Yes! I think of you now every time I pick up his book. 🙂 I’ve read the book before, but I think it’s helping me more this time since my drawing skills have improved a bit. I’m really enjoying it.

      Liked by 1 person

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