Not My Favorite Chapter

It had to happen, you know. Any time you pick up a how-to-draw book, sooner or later you’re going to come face to face with perspective. Like it or not — and, for the record, no, I don’t like it — perspective is an essential part of learning to draw. The Barrington Barber book I’m following along with this summer devotes an entire chapter to perspective and how to properly use it to create, in his words, believable pictures.

Of course, I’ve studied perspective at many points — pun intended — in the past. I’ve read entire books on perspective, and I do understand it theoretically. That’s the first step, according to Barber. He goes on to admit that it can be “rather confusing”, but at least he doesn’t single women out as being prone to problems with perspective as did Arnold Fletcher in an art instruction book from the 1960s.

I’m not going to link back to any previous posts regarding perspective. If you do a search on this blog, you’ll find many such posts, and each of them will say about the same things:

  • I hate doing drawings and exercises that deal with perspective.
  • I don’t have much patience when it comes to such exercises.
  • I’m just not good at using perspective in my drawings.

It’s definitely been a struggle, and I have a feeling it will always be problematic for me, but I’m learning to live with it. And, of course, I’m still spending a little time now and then doing those dreaded perspective exercises, drawing all those horizon lines and vanishing points and trying to connect them in some meaningful way. That was a big part of Barber’s chapter on “Using Perspective”, so I dutifully followed along. I did one-point perspective. I did two-point perspective. Truthfully, I struggled a bit with both. Even though I did end up with sketches that resembled the “blocks” in the exercise illustrations, neither was especially easy.

But then, believe it or not, I did three-point perspective. I nearly skipped over it. After all, as a landscape artist, I’m not likely to really ever need three-point perspective in my art, but my “art program” this summer is about just having fun, doing the best I can, and not fretting about results. So, why not try three-point perspective? To my surprise, this was the simplest of all the exercises, most likely because I was not taking myself seriously here. As you can see, after making the initial sketch, I couldn’t resist adding a bit of gansai. I even painted in the suggestion of a sky and a bit of background.

This is probably the first time I can truly say that I had fun with a perspective drawing exercise. I avoided adding windows on the right side. I liked the way the building looked at that point, so I was happy to leave well enough alone. And adding the gansai was so much fun!

Definitely I’m enjoying art this summer, and I love this new, casual approach. Now, back to the kitchen table, back to the drawing board, and back to this chapter on perspective. While it might not be my favorite chapter in the book, who knows!  With my new attitude of not trying too hard, I might just find myself liking it a lot more than I’d expected.

17 Comments

  1. Incorporating correct perspective into a drawing is a challenge for everyone – including myself – so please don’t beat yourself up about it. In the days before personal computers, achieving correct perspective in mechanical drafting and architectural rendering was much more difficult – but is a total breeze today when using programs such as AutoCAD and other similar apps.

    I found in both high school and design school that gender didn’t matter when it came to perspective. In high school, one of the top three students in our mechanical drafting class was a young woman – much to the chagrin of the rest of the male students. Later in design school, there were two of us – maybe three of us – that had a good-to-excellent grasp of perspective, but only because we had gone through mechanical and/or architectural drafting in earlier years. The very best illustrator in our entire design school (a guy) was terrible at perspective, especially with curved surfaces – and he ended up coming to me every time for assistance on things like car tires or wheels on a train.

    This animation still – https://aetherpx.com/2021/05/07/published-multi-image-art/ – is an example of hand-generated two-point perspective, done in the days before personal computers arrived on the scene and wiped out the multi-image industry. For this particular presentation, I was the only staff member in our 7-person shop that had the experience to generate all of the perspective heavy animations we needed to create, so I had to work crazy hours to get all of the artwork produced before our deadline – which required literally hundreds of drawings and overlays of this complexity or more. I have other examples from that period I’ll share in the future, some with even more complicated perspective renderings.

    My point is that you should just have fun with what you’re doing, and not drag yourself over the coals about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Just followed your link and read about the process of creating that image. I’ve always had problems with perspective from a “practical” point of view. What I mean is that I do understand the concepts involved, but applying them is very hard for me. I’m extremely uncoordinated, and using “tools” of any type has always been difficult. I’m clumsy. I drop things. I get my hands twisted up into odd configurations. In other words, I don’t do well with rules, protractors, compasses, or other necessary tools of the drafting/drawing trade. It leads to a lot of frustration. I truly can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, so when I’m required to draw multiple straight lines, one error compounds upon another until I have such a wonky-looking structure that the Leaning Tower of Pisa seems much straighter and sturdier.

      I can get through basic perspective exercises for one- and two-point perspective. But I can only use the principles for very simple drawings. If it’s anything complicated — an urban scene or the interior of a room, for example — I get so overwhelmed, it’s awful.

      I once spent most of one day trying to draw an open door as part of a perspective exercise. I had such a headache when it was over, I had to go to bed.

      I had a similar experience yesterday with the final assignment in the chapter on perspective. It was to do the interior of a room. On Thursday a post will publish about my attempt at doing a VERY VERY simple interior. It’s a cry for help! I wrote it hoping you might respond, so please take a moment to read it when it publishes. I was so totally lost!

      I’m sure my questions and problems seem crazy to you, but for me, it’s a source of frustration. So, when the post publishes on Thursday morning, have a chuckle or two, shake your head, and then please help me figure out where to start when it comes to actually USING perspective.

      The only way I could approach the drawing was to grab a protractor and attempt to measure angles. The results weren’t great. bit at least I completed the assignment.

      Truly I appreciate all your comments and suggestions. Thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Heh… a drafting machine is your best friend: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drafting_machine

        Seriously, working with a T-square is a brutal experience. Upgrading to a drafting parallel bar is better (https://www.amazon.com/Martin-Universal-Adjustable-Parallel-Drawing/dp/B004KJECUG), but can still be painful. For the best manual perspective experience, a drafting machine is key.

        Of course, why use a drafting machine at all when there are shortcuts. Simply capture an image you like with your smartphone, take it home, and use something like this (https://etchrlab.com/products/mirror) to then transfer the image – with the CORRECT perspective – to whatever media of your choice, and Bob’s your uncle. No muss, no fuss. No further gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair. Just move on, with perspective mastered.

        And yes, I have both a drafting machine and the Etchr Lab Mirror here at home, and I enjoy using the Mirror product a whole lot more. Super simple and extremely easy to use.

        There are other shortcut tools you can use as well, with most of them based around the concept of a camera lucida (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camera_lucida). You can find them online at Amazon and other places, with some being more portable than others.

        I find the Etchr Lab Mirror best for real subjects that I can photograph, and the drafting machine better for creating imaginary subjects that I can’t photograph.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Interesting! Since I intend to use perspective as little as possible, I probably won’t be investing in any devices. Since I mostly do landscape paintings, as long as I can do the occasional barn or fence I don’t run into too many situations that require precise perspective drawing. It’s mostly when I’m reading “how-to-draw” books or studying books like “Perspective Made Easy” that I end up pulling my hair out. I’ll admit the Etchr Lab Mirror looks interesting. I’ve seen advertisements for “camera lucida” tools before. Maybe I should read them more closely. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The hardest part about perspective, to make it look real and not distorted, is picking the right vanishing points if doing buildings. A lot of artists struggle with this including myself. So I mostly try now to avoid buildings unless is a straight on view. I have seen some plein air work where an artist relies on getting the perspective based on what they see with roofs, etc. They often get it wrong because as the eye moves up and down on real subjects in person, the perspective changes. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL… I can relate to the problems. I’m laughing because there’s a post coming up on Thursday where I’m really lost and looking for my vanishing posts. Mostly I do landscape oil painting, so except for an occasional barn or fence, I don’t include a lot of “man-made” features. It’s a good way to avoid dealing with too many perspective problems! Even so, I still want to improve my drawing ability, and I know that perspective is important. So, I keep at it. Thanks for the good wishes!

      Like

      1. Take a look at Richard Schmid paintings with buildings. Even he, the master, did not totally nail it sometimes. But….close enough to create the masterpieces he did. I think often painting older barns and homes, gives you license to be a tad off and most people do not notice.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. What gorgeous paintings he did! I will take a closer look at some of his buildings. 🙂 I agree that painting older and/or abandoned structures could give an artist a bit more leeway with perspectives. One thing I always want to avoid is art that becomes almost “mechanical”. I don’t want to draw lines with rules to make them precise. I might use a straight edge for a guide now and then, but I don’t want to be overly “realistic” with buildings. Too much precision takes away any charm, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, check back on Thursday here and you’ll find a post where I wasn’t having quite so much fun with perspective LOL. I was totally lost. All in all, perspective is still not one of my favorite things in art.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL… I’m finding out that I’m definitely not the only one! It’s nice to know others share my feelings, especially where rulers and other such implements are concerned.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts. You’re right. Even things we love doing can be challenging, even frustrating, at times. It’s not always easy, but yes, we have to just keep going. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

I'd Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s