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Perspective Made Simple

'Perspective' is really about tricking the brain into thinking there is more 3-dimensionality than there really is.

Using ideas such as, 'the further away the smaller something gets', 'foreshortening' or 'vanishing point' gives a viewer the impression of depth, space, even movement in a 2-dimensional world such as a drawing or painting.

The illusion of perspective is such a normal part of our lives today that it's hard to imagine a time when artists didn't know how to do it. It was only during the Renaissance that the rules were first demonstrated - in 1413 by Filippo Brunelleschi. Why is it useful for woodcarvers to know a bit about perspective and how it works? Well, it really comes into its own in relief carving, in particular low relief carving where there is very little depth to play with. Using perspective can make this flat surface appear much deeper, fuller and a carving much more interesting. In this workshop I'll give you a quick overview of the rules of perspective. It's fun! Grab some paper and play.

Note: In the Low Relief Church project you can see me make full use of perspective and this drawing.

Subscriber download: Low Relief Church Project (PDF)


| 14 June 2017 10:52

thumbs up...found my answers...thank you Chris.

| 25 September 2015 12:55

Duncan - I've only very rarely needed to have a vanishing point on the vertical. It gives you what is known as '3-point perspective', great for looking down on a cityscape for example, perhaps when you are drawing Superman flying over it; you have a sort of fish eye lens effect. So I wouldn't worry about that, just keep all verticals vertical. You'll find a lot about perspective on the internet. It can get very complicated. I've tried to give you the bare bones here. After you feel comfortable drawing boxes and cylinders etc from all points of view, think of other forms (bridges, animals) as blocks of the same sort of thing, obeying similar rules. Most importantly, draw and draw, relax and enjoy - just bits of paper!

| 24 September 2015 18:40

I found this so helpful. I had always done perspective by eye but had never twigged the idea of two vanishing points. I suspect if you are close into a subject, standing close to the corner of the church, that you need a vertical vanishing point too. I can't quite imagine a carving situation where that would be the case but perhaps in some drawings. I'm still struggling with the technique of foreshortening a scene into a relief carving but at least if you start from a realistic perspective drawing you have a accurate base to work from. Is there any useful reading on the subject of foreshortening objects in relief carving.

| 21 July 2015 07:25

Bert - I had a look and 'Perspective Made Easy' by Ernest R Norling is readily available - the original was published in 1939 and out of copyright and I suppose that's why it can be had for free as a PDF, but costs if you want a re-print as a book. Funnily enough, I do have an original copy got from a secondhand bookshop but didn't know it was still available - thanks for mentioning it. Norling does fill out what I'm saying in this lesson. You don't need to know a lot about perspective - as you say, it can get very technical - but, if you are carving where perspective is necessary, you do need to know enough to make sure your design looks 'right'.

| 20 July 2015 17:27

Dear Chris.
As a consulting civil engineer who is not really very well wired as to the hand-eye co-ordination with which you seem to be abundantly blessed I have found a rudimentary knowledge of perspective to be a great comfort. If not things of great beauty, my preliminary schetches at least look balanced and in proportion and a great help in conveying concepts to clients as well my draughting staff. I never fail to feel amazed when a few well placed lines suddenly transform themselves and take on a life of their own. I have done a lot of reading on the subject, most of it dreadfully technical and largely beyond what I needed to know. I suspect that many people have been put off completely. So I wonder if I might recommend "Perspective made easy" by Ernest R Norling? It is freely down loadable, seemingly for free (but I leave that to individuals' consciences). Words are kept to a minimum, the language is delightfully "old school" and the drawings absolutely charming. Please be assured that I have no commercial interest I'm making this recommendation.

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